by Paul Bowers
In an interview with ABC News today, President Barack Obama spoke in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry — a first for any U.S. president. Here's what he said:
I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.
Obama gave the interview one day after roughly 60 percent of North Carolina voters approved an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage between a man and a woman as the “only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized.” Many conservative Christian groups pushed for the amendment, and even the evangelist Billy Graham — who until recently had remained silent on most political issues — took out full-page newspaper ads in favor of the amendment's passage.
Warren Redman-Gress, executive director of the Charleston-based LGBT advocacy group Alliance For Full Acceptance, says that Obama's new stance is a historic advance for gay rights. He says the president's support for marriage equality could be an opportunity for reconsideration among the "movable middle," the people who don't hold a firm stance one way or the other on the issue.
"Probably like many people, I wonder what it would have been like had he done this two days ago," Redman-Gress says. "And I bet there are plenty of people in North Carolina asking that question."
In the interview with ABC, Obama said he and First Lady Michele Obama discussed the issue before taking a firm stance:
This is something that, you know, we’ve talked about over the years, and she, you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do. And that is that, in the end, the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others, but, you know, 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 I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids, and that’s what motivates me as president, and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I’ll be as president.
This, says Redman-Gress, is a key thing to understand about what Obama has called his "evolution" of opinion on the topic of marriage equality. "What President Obama describes is his personal interaction with staff members, family, friends," Redman-Gress says. "Those are the things that moved him along toward recognizing the need for marriage equality, that civil unions aren't enough. That, I think, is something the LGBT community has known for a long time: that we have to be out there, we have to tell our stories. People have to meet us face to face to begin to understand how important marriage is to us and why we actually should be treated equally."