First published on 10 May 2012.
Can one man make a difference? When that one man is president Barack H Obama – perhaps.
The US president told reporter Robin Robins on (America's) ABC News that he supports gay marriage in an interview to air Wednesday night in America. It's a huge step forward for the president who until recently had described his feelings on that matter as "evolving".
"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," said Obama. He also said that he had been cautious about coming out and saying as much previously because he felt same-sex unions would be enough to guarantee many of the rights the gay community claims are behind their push for marriage equality – hospital visitation rights, for example – and because he had to be sensitive to the kinds of feelings the word "marriage" can evoke in certain parts of America. Cough, bigots, cough.
While the president says in the interview that discussions about 'coming out' on the matter have been a long time coming, there were a few incidents over the last few days some feel might have prompted him. The first: VP Joe Biden announced his support for gay marriage over the weekend. The second: On Tuesday, North Carolina voters voted overwhelmingly in favour of a ban on same-sex marriage, a result the White House had come out and descibed as "disappointing".
One could be a touch cynical and say Biden forced the president's hand, and that it was a shrewd political move for a president who needs to re-energise the young, progressive base that has lost its enthusiasm for the man who promised hope and change and hasn't lived up to some of their expectations. And to bring in those big progressive donors. All are potentially true. But we applaud Obama for what is a pretty brave stance in the current climate. Especially following the North Carolina result.
And what does this have to do with us here in Sydney and Australia more widely? It shows that a polly – and a good ol' Christian one at that – can evolve their opinions and take a stand every now and then. And who knows, it might even help their poll numbers.