President Barack Obama’s announcement that he supports same-sex marriage was quickly hailed Wednesday by Southland advocates of gay and lesbian weddings as a historic turning point in the fight for marriage equality.
“Today is a proud day for all Americans,” said Theodore B. Olson, one of the attorneys in a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage. “The bedrock American principles of freedom and human dignity are central to the political and legal convictions of Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives alike.
“President Obama’s words remind us that marriage and equality are universal values that unite us all. They remind us that we are all — as a people and a nation — striving to form a more perfect union,” he said.
Obama made the announcement in an interview with ABC News. He conceded that he has “been going through an evolution” on the issue, and said that while he has supported equality, he has hesitated on same-sex marriage “because I thought civil unions would be sufficient.”
“And I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth,” Obama said.
“But I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I 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’re 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.”
Obama’s position is not shared by his presumed re-election opponent, Republican Mitt Romney.
“When these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts, I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender and I don’t favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name,” Romney told a Denver television station. “My view is that domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights and the like are appropriate but the others are not.”
Chad Griffin, board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, said Obama’s announcement gives hope to millions of gay and lesbian couples who want to wed.
“President Obama’s words today will be celebrated by generations to come,” Griffin said. “For the millions of young gay and lesbian Americans across this nation, their president’s words provide genuine hope that they will be the first generation to grow up with the freedom to fully pursue the American dream. Marriage — the promise of love, companionship and family — is basic to the pursuit of that dream.”
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa reacted via Twitter, writing, “We stand (with) Pres. Obama — love doesn’t have a color, love doesn’t care if you’re gay or straight. Love doesn’t discriminate.” Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who officiated over the marriage of two women who met while working in his office during the short period when same-sex unions were legal in California, also hailed the president’s comments.
“Today, our president moved us closer to fulfilling the promise of equality and fairness upon which our nation was founded,” Garcetti said.
“When you put the politics aside, it’s simple: when two people love each other and want to get married, it’s nobody’s business but their own.”
The Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Church in Pasadena said Obama “showed us what leadership looks like” with his announcement.
“As a priest and pastor my commitment to marriage equality is grounded in my belief that the values that make up a marriage transcend the gender of the partners married to each other; that what God cares about is not our sexual orientation but our theological orientation and that the question the church should be asking is not who do you love but `do’ you love,” Russell said.
Fighting back tears, Councilman Bill Rosendahl, Los Angeles’ first openly gay elected city official, called Obama’s support for same-sex marriage Wednesday a “beautiful, great moment for all of us.” “To have our president finally say we should be treated equally on civil and human rights sets a tone for the nation,” Rosendahl said during the City Council meeting. “If he takes that to the next level and makes it a national reality, we have what we have been fighting for years.”
Eric Bauman, chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, said Obama’s stance “epitomizes his presidency over the last four years — standing up for what is right, no matter the consequence.”
Robin Tyler, one of the original plaintiffs to challenge California’s ban on same-sex marriage, called the president’s announcement an act of courage.
“There is actually no such thing as `gay’ marriage,” she said. “There is no `gay driver’s license’ or ‘gay birth certificate.’ It is just marriage for same-sex adult couples. Our president has finally evolved.”