I wrote this piece for The Next Great Generation, a Boston Globe blog for 20 somethings with something to say. Since posting on May 11, it has received over 2,500 views and has been shared over 500 times. Here is a link to the post, and full text below:
As a queer woman, I am not jumping for joy at Obama’s “personal acceptance” of gay marriage. My girlfriend went so far as to call it a “slap in the face” and said, “I’m very wary of applauding a leader tokenizing me and my people to make him look electable.” We have been getting calls from many straight friends congratulating us on the victory and saying how excited we must be. We are not excited.
I recognize Obama is the first president in our nation’s history to come out in support of same sex marriage, which is monumental. However, his personal opinion does not change policy. The president reinforced his belief that states still should have the right to determine same sex marriage laws. In doing so, Obama articulated he accepts the legitimacy of states like North Carolina subjecting LGBT rights to popular vote. Author Sweta Vikram says, “Maybe I’m a cynic, but President Obama’s support sounds like a calculated political move.”
Where would we be if states could still deny inter-racial couples the right to marry? Same sex marriage is a civil rights issue, but the President has made it clear that it is still not an important enough issue to make a constitutional law protecting the rights of LGBT people everywhere. People often employ the “better of two evils” argument when supporting Obama, but musician Cade DeBois calls this “ideological bullying.”
If the President really wanted to show his support for LGBT rights and prove this isn’t a calculated move in an election year, he would use his power to make same sex marriage legal on a national level. I’m sick of Obama patting himself on the back for repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and for repealing support of the Defense of Marriage Act. His campaign website even has a nice rainbow map of everything his administration has done for the LGBT community. Obama seems to be saying to LGBT and socially liberal voters, “See? Look at all these great things I’m doing for you, now stop complaining about my immigration policies and economic fumbles.”
Executive Director of GLAD, Lee Swislow, pointed out, “It remains to be seen what the President’s statement will mean for our causes generally, and for our DOMA lawsuits in particular.”
While I personally do not believe in the institution of marriage, I recognize that it is important to many people in my community to achieve. And from an economic perspective it is crucial that LGBT people can get the same rights and benefits in a relationship as our heterosexual counterparts currently receive. Afrofeminist writer SpectaSpeaks says, “Marriage may be a flawed institution. But too much rides on it for us not to care. Let everyone get it, then we can get rid of it.”
My anger transcends politics. People expect me to kiss the feet of someone who just now decided to vocalize his approval for me to love who I want to love. This is something I have known my entire life, and I don’t need a person in the Oval Office to give me permission. So thanks for the personal acceptance of my lifestyle, Mr. President, but put your power where your proclamations are.