Barack Obama has become the first President of the USA to declare his support for equal marriage rights for gay people. In an election campaign, this is Quite A Big Thing.
Obama has never been vocal about this, but he states that after having discussions with gay friends and family members, gay White House staff and others who know more than a bit about how it is to be gay in America in 2012, he feels he has to speak up in favour.
I admit I am an Obama fan; I know he came into power on a surge of hope and promises of change and some feel he's not delivered all he pledged to, but he's a visionary who has battled hard to get past old thinking and ways of doing things. It's taken time, but he's never been defeatist or negative, and he's stayed true to his vision. I think he's achieved astonishing things considering he's had to do so in a very difficult political climate.
There are people who now won't vote for Obama based on his stance- but they probably weren't going to anyway, and this has given them a single handy peg to hang their opinions on. Some possibly weren't going to bother to vote at all and so this makes not a jot of difference to them. Others have already decided to back him and this latest news either reinforces their opinion of him as a progressive politician, or they kind of assumed he was cool with this sort of thing anyway, without having to make any kind of a song and dance about it. So his position on one issue that is such a positive step for many and is no threat at all to the rest doesn't influence their decision. They'd rather vote on the issues that stand to have a serious impact on them, their families and their businesses, I guess.
That's the majority of American voters there, or so you'd like to think. Any idea that promotes equality and fairness as part of a much bigger package of ideas and pledges has to be a good thing, right? Isn't that how many have seen positive changes to their lives, regardless of race, faith, gender or ability?
Yes, there is a long way to go. But we've also come so far from segregation, sex discrimination, locking away our disabled or 'different' people, and ignorance about religious belief. Every step has been for the benefit of us all, so why not take another?
The UK Government has quietly dropped the discussion on equal marriage rights in favour of House of Lords reform, as announced in the Queen's Speech yesterday. UK activists are displeased - they feel what the UK press seem to have labelled 'gay marriage' (isn't it just 'marriage'?) is a far more pressing issue than pursuing reforms to the Other Place... a mission that's seen consensus and success elude successive Governments for decades.
Interestingly, when Barack Obama was born in 1961, his parents' mixed-race marriage was illegal in 22 states of the US. Thankfully, the world has moved on and the idea of this horrifies us, as the idea that gay people were denied equality of marriage rights in 2012 will probably appall our children and grandchildren.
By denying equality to one group do we risk damaging our society more?
Compromise and discussion leading to understanding and agreement is where it's at.