Count the president in (Finally)
So, welcome to the fight, Mr. President:
"I have to tell you that 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,” Obama told Roberts, in an interview to appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday. Excerpts of the interview will air tonight on ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer.”
President Obama's "evolution" officially ends, but it's not exactly being replaced by a revolution. The president still says this is a state-by-state issue. He is still a politician, you know. That's why this took so long.
But it's a big moment. An American president whose climb to the White House is considered a civil rights achievement is now embracing this fight for civil rights. The very first sitting president to do so.
Since Vice President Joe Biden got this party started as only he can, I've been reading all about the sound political reasons for not doing what the president did today. Swing state polls and the suburbs and North Carolina, etc. Mighty risky.
But how long does the right thing have to stare you in the face before you just do it?
The president is running against an opponent whose principal weakness is supposedly a lack of principle. You don't win that contest by dancing around an important issue of principle like this one.
I'm sure Obama will be dubbed a flip-flopper, too. But his evolution from opponent, to supporter of civil unions to support for full marriage is the same path followed by many other Americans in recent years. And it's a path that leads forward, not backward.
Still, it was well past time to end the evolution. It was tarnishing an otherwise very strong record on gay rights. The veep's inability to stop talking for one dang minute probably did the president a favor. And history.
Because, at some point, you have to stop scanning the polling and lead the country. Today's the day. And the political risks actually make it more admirable.
Beyond those risks, which we'll be debating about from now until cows return home, it doesn't really change much. This is still an issue headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In Iowa, legislative elections hold the key to whether equality endures. The president's practical ability to impact the issue is limited.
It's largely symbolic, but symbolism does matter. It will energize supporters of civil rights. It may also energize his opponents, but it seems like they're already plenty mad. Maybe it costs votes, maybe it also gains a few.And, most importantly, it tells thousands of families fighting for equality that the president of the United States is now on their side. Finally.