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‘Same-Sex Couples Should Be Able to Get Married’

Obama is first sitting president to express support for gay marriage

Marc Tracy
May 09, 2012
President Obama announcing his support for gay marriage.(ABC News)
President Obama announcing his support for gay marriage.(ABC News)

In case you’re not on Twitter, you may have missed that in a new interview, President Obama tells ABC News’ Robin Roberts that he personally is okay with gay marriage (you can watch some video through that link). In part, he says:

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.

He also notes that much of the shift on this topic has been “generational,” and credits his kids’ perspectives, as well as his wife Michelle’s opinion, for helping his “evolution” on the topic.

At Mother Jones, Adam Serwer reports the important caveat: Obama is saying he personally is okay with gay marriage; he is not advocating any policy that would extend gay marriage to anywhere it doesn’t already exist or even to protect it in those six states (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, plus the District of Columbia) where it does. A case in point would be North Carolina, where only yesterday voters resoundingly banned same-sex marriage: Obama would change nothing there, as of now. Obama’s statement has no legally binding power, and he hasn’t expressed any interest in pursuing legally binding routes toward promoting it.

As a member of a younger generation for which having gay friends and relatives is roughly as noteworthy as eating three meals a day, a dark memory for me is President Bush’s endorsement eight years ago of an anti-gay marriage amendment to the Constitution (despite the fact that, by all accounts, he is personally tolerant). What I mean to say is, I will be extremely shocked if this is even remotely an issue in 25 years; to say, as Fox News’ Shepard Smith did today, that Republicans, most of whom (including Mitt Romney) oppose gay marriage, are “on the wrong side of history” on this issue seems like nothing so much as a statement of fact.

Finally, half of Americans, exactly, support gay marriage, according to a brand-new Gallup poll, although the figures are incredibly sensitive to age (the younger you are, the more likely you are to support it). Among Jews, however, according to last month’s PRRI poll, the figure is 81 percent, and fully 51 percent hold that position strongly. As ever, we are a people of the vanguard.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.