The First Gay President

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President Obama already made American history once when he was inaugurated in 2008. However, that was not enough for Mr. Obama. He made history yet again on May 9th, 2012 by becoming the first president to openly support gay marriage after making a public statement and using his strong presidential influence to support a social issue that continues to divide the country.

In the past, the Obama administration has openly endorsed civil unions for gay couples, but not marriages. Obama has said that he opposes same-sex marriage as a Christian but describes himself as an advocate of equality for every American citizen.

Some believe it was the pressure that resulted from Vice President Joseph Biden’s comment made three days prior on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about how he is “absolutely comfortable” with the idea of same-sex marriage that pushed Obama to change his policy. Another important factor in Obama’s decision was the frustration that many of his homosexual supporters have expressed with his lack of support. The importance of their loyalty to Obama as well as the statements made by other members of his staff, like Biden, more directly caused the statement than the upcoming election.

Certainly a major moment in history, this statement was unexpected from many, but was met with large amounts of support overall. Many have said that they are proud of him for taking such a bold, yet overdue step for American society. Newsweek magazine went as far as printing a cover with a rainbow-colored halo over the president’s head.

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, there have also been most negative and hateful reactions to Obama’s statement as well. Conservative Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul actually said publically that he didn’t think Pres. Obama’s position on same sex marriage could “get any gayer.”

Even though the president says he was not thinking of the 2012 election when he made the statement, some have speculated on how it will affect the turnout. In a New York Times online survey, the majority of participants agreed that Obama’s support for same-sex marriage did not have a large impact on their vote because they already planned to vote for Obama. A small number of conservatives commented that this statement ensures that Obama will never receive a vote from them.

For many, the common reaction to this history-making moment has been, “Why hasn’t this been done already?” Before the progress made by politicians like Harvey Milk, it was incredibly difficult for people in public life to be openly gay.  But we now live in a culture in which openly homosexual characters have been portrayed, and even loved, on television. One would think that with the strong public support that characters like Kurt from Glee and Mitch and Cam from Modern Family have received, and the adoration that openly gay comedienne Ellen DeGeneres enjoys, our country would be far past debating whether same-sex marriage should be allowed.

However, we must remember that extremists still hold most of the power in today’s government. Some conservatives have argued that same-sex marriage would justify a man being able to marry a sandwich or a dog, if marriage is simply something based on love. The issue arises when the word “marriage” is specifically used, since the word holds a strong traditional meaning, especially to those who are extremely religious.

Hopefully, the struggle to legalize same-sex marriage will become a topic similar to the struggle to end slavery of segregation and one day the large majority of us will look back and wonder, what were we thinking?

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