I Am Gobsmacked
Well, I guess I'm cynical. I had a list of reasons as long as my arm for President Obama NOT to state that he favors equal marriage. My heart is turning such cartwheels that I am not sure I can write anything cogent.
Here's what I was all ready to say before the announcement:
In practice, the White House has already backed same-sex marriage as fully as it can at the federal level. Under the tenth amendment, individual states write the marriage rules—not the president or Congress. The federal government merely applies its rules and regs to marriages the states have performed. The exceptions str marriages like mine, between two men or two women—which, under the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, the federal government is barred from recognizing. DOMA passed before any state had yet legalized marriage equality. Now that six states and the District of Columbia marry two women and two men, some married couples have brought lawsuits against DOMA, and are winning in the federal courts. So here’s the White House support. First, Obama’s Justice Department is refusing to defend the law, and actually wrote an official memo agreeing that DOMA is unconstitutional. Second, the administration supports the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal DOMA. Third, Obama’s immigration officials don’t deport foreign-born same-sex spouses, even when, under DOMA, those husbands and wives have no legal claim to be here. What more could Obama do to make clear where he stands—except declare his support publicly? And what difference would that make?
But apparently it does make a difference, or I wouldn't be sitting here, dizzy.
He's smart to do it so far ahead of the elections, so that it can be old news by then. He's smart to attribute it to Christianity (hey, Muslims don't let same-sex couples get married!):
...when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.
And he's smart to let his donors know that he does at times live by principle.
Of course, there are many questions that the pundits will be flapping on about all week. Will it hurt him in the election? How long until DOMA actually falls? How long until states start rolling back their antigay amendments, allowing their lesbian daughters and gay sons to stay there, where they grew up, instead of fleeing to coastal states and urban centers?
But I can't think about any of that right now. Because apparently not everything in the world is politics, is it? Sometimes—just for a minute—politics is very, very personal.
In 2004, I sat in a Unitarian pew while my friends Hillary and Julie Goodridge said their vows. I was absolutely fine with all the lead-up—they'd been together as long as I had been with my beloved partner, and I'd known them before that. Then came the phrase "By the power vested in me by the commonwealth of Massachusetts"—and I was sobbing harder than I knew was possible. So were the hardbitten LGBT activists around me, even those who weren't especially happy about the pursuit of marriage. As we all managed to sit up and dry our eyes, a little embarrassed at how raw the emotion was, one of the latter said, "I guess being ready for something intellectually isn't the same as being ready emotionally."
There's something very deep about having your government declare you a stranger to its laws, defining your love as outside all respectable recognition. For my president to stand up and say that I should belong fully to my nation, that my wife and I should be considered as fully married as my brother and his wife—well, it reopens and washes out some very deeply incised sense of exclusion, a scar inflicted when, at age 15, I first panicked at the realization that I might be queer.
But not so queer, really, if even my president believes that my marriage is the equal of his. Politics tomorrow. Today is a good day.
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