My heart sings. It does. In 1980 there was not one openly gay person in my 1600-student high school. In 1989, Denmark was the first nation to introduce civil unions (not even marriage!), and I thought, That will never, never, never happen here. I doubt 20-somethings today can even comprehend what that world was like. And twenty years from now it will boggle kids’ minds to imagine a presidential election with no serious candidate standing up for marriage equality.
Because that time is over!
But a part of me leans back, crosses my arms, frowns, and says: Mm hmm.
I’ve been thinking that the president’s “evolution” resembles the way a lot of people come out. At first, your feelings are secret. You even deny them out loud. But folks start to suspect –your closest friends wonder, and the idea ripples out beyond your inner circle. Still you deny it, and your friends play along, and they get used to the notion, and it’s not even scandalous. They discuss it. They wonder why you don’t just come out with it. They start to view the whole thing as a character flaw — not because of what you’re hiding, but because you keep hiding it! At some point, events catch up with you, and with a hurried epiphany you realize the costs of hiding are worse than the costs of being open. So finally, at long last, to everyone’s relief — even the relief of those who don’t like the fact — you come out of that damn closet.
Is that what happened with Obama? Or perhaps this was all staged. Obama knows that endorsing something will solidify a part of the country against it. (Would those Republican New York State Senators have been able to vote for a marriage equality law that Obama campaigned for?) So Obama, canny politician, deliberately minimized the blowback. He deliberately let it become an open secret, deliberately drained it of its shock value, deliberately let Biden and Duncan force the issue, and finally deliberately announced it after everybody figured it was coming anyway.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. It’s happened Obama can claim another civil rights first. He hasn’t just broken the color barrier — he’s opened the yellow brick road. He’s giving back, repaying the fighters and activists of previous generations who made his own election possible, so that now, somewhere, in a tiny little no-name corner of the nation, a bright and talented gay kid has suddenly realized: I can be president.