Never has an American president openly supported gay marriage — that is, until President Barack Obama declared his monumental stance last week.
Much of our progressive generation has celebrated Obama’s personal support of the issue, even taking his stance as the beginning of the end of discrimination against gay Americans. This is true to some extent, as Obama’s unprecedented stance stands as an overdue milestone in the battle for equal rights.
The fact of the matter is that same-sex marriage is a complex issue that touches on state v.s federal rights and the history of religion in this country. These complexities mean that there isn’t one simple solution to the problem, and Obama’s support of gay marriage is not something to get excited about yet, as no political effort has followed suit.
It’s also worth noting that Obama had previously opposed same-sex marriage.
When Obama ran for the U.S. Senate eight years ago, he told WTTW Chicago public television, “What I believe in my faith is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God.”
These mixed signals engender questions as to how much trust citizens can put into Obama’s new claim. In fact, people should have reservations regarding this new stance, no matter how good the news is.
The faith we can put into a politician’s changes of opinion, along with the timing of the upcoming election, complicate the issue.
A recent poll by CBS News/The New York Times noted that 25 percent of voters said they likely will not support Obama in the upcoming election because of his newfound support of gay marriage.
Obama’s revolutionary words are meant to inspire the hope and change that he initially promised when he ran for president in 2008, but his direct contradiction of his former beliefs demonstrates a disconcerting lack of continuity.
And though Obama’s actions might be considered a strong step in the right direction, the timing of this fight for justice seems like an advance of his own political strategy.
Even if Obama’s intentions are genuine, all he has offered thus far is an opinion and not a plan of action. Many supporters of same-sex marriage are treating Obama’s words as if they have brought an end to the battle for equal rights, when in fact this is just the beginning. Until Obama pushes for new legislation, there really is nothing to celebrate. Considering Obama has noted that gay rights will not be a focus for his campaign, it seems that for now we just have a slight hope for equality, not actual change.
As U.S. citizens, the gay community is just as entitled to the same rights, including marriage, as anyone else. And though laws regarding same-sex marriage are subject to state, rather than federal decisions, Obama still carries significant influence across the country and should take action accordingly.
Many supporters of gay rights would love to back Obama and his new stance, but talk is cheap. Until Obama makes a stronger effort to ensure equality for the gay community, his newfound support of same-sex marriage could be nothing more than a mask for his election agenda.
C. Molly Smith is a junior majoring in communication and is online editor of the Summer Trojan.