Following President Obama’s comments last week that he personally favors marriage equality, Newsweek writer Andrew Sullivan has written an article declaring Obama to be the first ‘gay’ president.
The working toward this non-literal but interesting idea is a bit long but certainly gives something to chew on.
Sullivan, a self-identifying conservative, had been unimpressed with Obama’s perceived lack of action on key LGBT rights issues and his continual claim to be “evolving” on the issue of marriage equality. However, even Sullivan says he couldn’t fail to be moved by Obama’s ABC news interview last week where he, as a sitting president, declared his support for marriage equality:
And I was utterly unprepared for how psychologically transformative the moment would be. To have the president of the United States affirm my humanity–and the humanity of all gay Americans–was, unexpectedly, a watershed. He shifted the mainstream in one interview. And last week, a range of Democratic leaders–from Harry Reid to Steny Hoyer–backed the president, who moved an entire party behind a position that only a few years ago was regarded as simply preposterous. And in response, Mitt Romney could only stutter.
Sullivan goes on to admit he was wrong regarding Obama’s perceived slow pace on the DADT repeal, writing:
He made the brilliant calculation that he would not push it right away, as Clinton did, and he would not be the front person to advocate the change. Adm. Michael Mullen would do it, backed by Republican Defense Secretary Bob Gates. By bringing the military top brass and Gates slowly on board, he outmaneuvered the Republicans.
Sullivan also points out that Obama’s affirmation of marriage equality is actually only the icing on the cake of a substantial erosion of the Defense of Marriage Act that the Obama administration has been carrying out through the courts in the past year:
In other words, by February 2011, Obama and Holder put the significant weight of the Justice Department behind the constitutional logic of marriage equality. Immediately, the lawyers in the Proposition 8 case in California claimed this as a â€śmaterialâ€ť or legally significant development. It was. And, of course, if discriminating against gays in marriage violates the equal-protection clause, as the Justice Department claims, then DOMA is doomed. And in making that decision, Obama did far more to advance marriage equality substantively than he did in his recent interview.
But it is perhaps Sullivan’s last point that is the most interesting. Sullivan argues that President Barack Obama and the gay community share a very specific trait:
Gays are born mostly into heterosexual families and discover as they grow up that, for some reason, they will never be able to have a marriage like their parents’ or their siblings’.
Barack Obama had to come out of a different closet. He had to discover his black identity and then reconcile it with his white family, just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family.
As such, Sullivan argues Obama is in many ways the fierce advocate he always claimed to be because he implicitly understands the gay rights struggle due to the fact that his own identity struggle, while not the same, gave him an empathy past President’s have lacked.
Image taken from Newsweek cover under fair use terms, no infringement intended.