For all his chatter of hope and change, and for all the good he’s done for gay and lesbian people by allowing them to serve openly in the military, Obama was still a major disappointment on marriage. He talked about how he was “evolving” on the issue, prompting some activists to put a pithy phrase on a button: “Evolve, already.” How long, we asked ourselves, does it take for a constitutional law professor to get around to thinking this through?
That changed last week, when Obama officially endorsed gay marriage, almost as eloquently as his candid vice-president did a few days before. The announcement sent shockwaves through our media-centric and gay-friendly city, where I think it’s fair to say the president is even more welcome than he was before.
Yes, there are opponents here to gay marriage, like the media-savvy Timothy Dolan. Last year, after he compared marrying someone of the same sex to wedding (and, by association, bedding) an animal, I took the liberty of calling his office and providing a woman who answered the phone with my reaction to his ridiculous comments. “I want to get married,” I said, “and I want him to get out of the way.”
Outside of religious extremists, New Yorkers seem pretty positive on this big issue. We have a mayor and a governor who led the way on same-sex marriage. Indeed, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s statement about Obama’s change of view contained a rare historical view. The mayor saw Obama’s comments to ABC’s Robin Roberts as a turning point—one that mattered because it came from the top.
“No American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately been adopted by the American people—and I have no doubt that this will be no exception,” Bloomberg said.
Is history at odds with the short term? Maybe. A Manhattan-based reporter pal of mine, reporting on the news as it broke, suggested Obama was alienating middle-class straight men in the Midwest. Maybe, but if Obama is doomed, it’s not because I got married or because he now officially OKs the union. It’s because he never really learned how to manage the American economy, especially with Republicans in Congress at war with him. Now that you’re cool with my marriage, Mr. President, would you please fire Timothy Geithner?
As a former Howard Dean supporter, I’m not great at picking a winner. Still, I’d argue the president has helped himself in a couple of ways. He helped build his brand, as the Madison Avenue peeps might say. He’s going for gutsy. This is the brave Obama, the guy who failed to show up during negotiations with congressional Republicans.
Like all of the preceding elections, this one will be about turnout. Obama needs the money and energy of millions of gay voters, along with their families and friends. He was coming to town anyway to take our money. Now he can come without the ridiculous pretense that he’s still evolving. Instead, he will be a dude who, win or lose, has a place in history. He was the first U.S. president to tell some of us that he thinks we have the right to get married. In the city of Stonewall, that’s going to resonate.
On our wedding day, the couples at City Hall were of all shapes and sizes and, yes, they were both gay and straight. There was a stunning New York mix. To me, the whole thing was a walking and breathing miracle—how I was allowed to join legally with the love of my life in the city of my heart. I think Obama would have enjoyed himself on that December morning.
I like that there’s now no disconnect between my marriage and my president.
Christopher Moore is a writer living in Manhattan. He can be reached by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and is on Twitter (cmoorenyc).
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