As a longtime proponent of LGBT equal rights, I have to agree that yesterday’s announcement by President Barak Obama affirming the rights of all Americans to marry the person they love is a watershed moment in gay rights history. But I’m deeply disappointed he didn’t speak out before North Carolina voters approved a harsh constitutional ban against same-sex marriage that will also ban domestic partnerships, which will especially harm older adults, both gay and straight.
No, I can’t applaud the president’s courage. He kept his convictions silent until the polls indicated there was clearly no risk whatsoever for him to join the rapidly growing number of Americans (a majority in fact for the first time ever) in supporting equal rights for gays and lesbians through marriage.
Obama should have spoken out before North Carolina voted on Tuesday to ban same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnership benefits for all couples. This discriminatory amendment will hit families and older North Carolinians the hardest as the most important benefits provided in domestic partnerships are designed to protect couples and their children during times of illness and death.
As I blogged in March, my current home state of Maryland is the next to vote on constitutionally banning same-sex marriage this November. The stakes are not as high as in North Carolina, as Maryland lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage and clearly support gay rights. But the symbolism of the vote and I think the potential in Maryland to be the first state to vote down a same-sex marriage ban is huge.
The latest polls had Marylanders about evenly split on the issue. I think the President’s announcement will have a profound effect on the debate. Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan summed it up well on NPR yesterday:
There is something about hearing your president affirm your humanity that you don’t know what effect it has until you hear it. And I think of all those gay Americans over the centuries who never heard that, never believed it could happen. And I have to say I’m immensely proud of this president for doing what he did.
I may not be happy about how long it took, but now that the President is on the right side of history, I too am full of pride for what he did.