Standing up for marriage equality is the right thing to do both morally and politically. Let’s urge President Obama to do so. (More)
Dear President Obama:
I write as a proud supporter to urge you to take a stand on the civil rights issue of our time and to strongly and publicly support marriage equality.
Last Friday, New York became the sixth state in our country to legalize gay marriage by passing legislation that was strongly supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, grassroots activists throughout the state, and even four Republican state senators. Even before this vote, many were asking where you are on this issue. Now, with the New York victory having occurred, the questions are piling up.
I strongly disagree with the critics who suggest that you are not a friend of the LGBT community. In fact, your administration has done more to advance policies supporting LGBT equality than any other. I and tens of millions of other Americans thank you for keeping your promise to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, ending the legal defense of the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act, requiring all hospitals that accept Medicare or Medicaid to ensure equal visitation rights to LGBT Americans, extending employee benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, and lifting the HIV Entry Ban. We still have a far ways to go to achieve full equality in the U.S., and I strongly believe that you are a friend and ally in that continuing struggle.
That being said, the statements from folks in your administration that your position on marriage equality is “evolving” or that you are “grappling” with the issue simply do not cut it. Having watched you answer questions about civil unions and marriage equality during the primary campaign for your 2004 U.S. Senate run, I believe that you have privately supported marriage equality for a long time now, as the delivery of your answers suggest that you didn’t find the distinctions you were offering for supporting civil unions but opposing marriage equality convincing. But, regardless, now is the time for you to stand up on this issue for at least four reasons.
1. It is morally the right thing to do – Marriage equality is an issue of fundamental fairness. As straight people, you and I were able to marry our spouses with no impediment from the state or federal government. But in most states, our fellow LGBT Americans are not allowed to make that commitment to the persons they love. As a result, LGBT Americans are not able to honor and proclaim their relationships in the same way that other Americans are, and LGBT Americans are denied access to the more than 1,000 legal rights that accompany marriage in the U.S. Such unequal treatment is morally wrong, and should not continue in a country that prides itself on equal rights for all.
2. It is what our Democratic Party is about – For decades, our Democratic Party has proudly taken a strong leadership role in fighting for the laws and policies necessary to spread the benefits of freedom and equality to all Americans. In 1948, Democratic President Harry Truman ordered the military desegregated. In the 1960s, Democratic Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson passed a series of civil rights acts that started to chip away at racial discrimination in housing, accommodations, voting rights, and other areas of society. And Democratic leaders and activists have played leading roles in the fight for gender equality, the rights of workers, and disabled Americans. Democrats have taken these steps because they are consistent with our fundamental belief that the benefits of society should accrue to all Americans, not just to a privileged few. It is now time to recognize that such belief requires us to lead the fight for marriage equality, rather than to sit on the sidelines of this major civil rights issue.
3. You can be a great spokesperson for marriage equality – Your ability to communicate progressive ideals in compelling and convincing ways has always been clear. From your 2004 Democratic National Convention speech to the many great speeches of your 2008 Presidential campaign, to your ringing endorsement of the progressive ideal of government in your speech on fiscal responsibility back in April, your ability to communicate and persuade has never been in doubt. That talent alone could add a lot to the fight for marriage equality. In addition, you have a life story that supports the ideal of marriage equality. Your parents’ marriage in the early 1960s would have been illegal in many states in the U.S. because many states outlawed interracial marriage at the time. Who better to fight for marriage equality now than a person who has gone from his parents’ marriage being illegal in many states, to running for and winning the race to be President of those same states?
4. It is a politically smart thing to do – While I am sure your aides have urged you to not take a stand on this issue in order to avoid alienating voters. On this issue their political calculus is simply wrong. The most recent polls show that opponents of gay marriage are now in the minority, with the last four national polls showing support for marriage equality at over 50%. The latest CNN poll on the issue shows support for gay marriage at 55% among independents, and in the electoral battlegrounds of the Midwest and West, support is at 54% and 61%, respectively. More importantly, your public support will help rally a progressive base that, rightly or wrongly, has raised concerns about how willing you are to stand up on our issues. People who would vote based on the issue of gay marriage are almost certainly not going to vote for you regardless of what you do, while standing up in support of marriage equality now would help ensure that a well-organized group of progressives will be enthusiastic about fighting to re-elect you and elect other Democrats in 2012. We all know that the GOP is going to throw every dirty trick and slimy attack they can at you. In such circumstances, having enthusiastic supporters ready to get in the trenches to counteract those attacks is critical to victory.
In short, supporting marriage equality is the right thing to do morally and politically, would be invaluable to the movement for equality, and will help our party continue its long and proud tradition in favor of fairness and equality. So, Mr. President, I urge you to continue the great track record you have on LGBT equality and fight for the civil rights issue of our time – marriage equality.
(Cross-posted at Winning Progressive)