U.S. President Barack Obama's surprise backing of same-sex marriage got mixed reviews around the world last Wednesday, and I wonder if that will hurt him in the polls.
I hope not.
Contrary to some naysayers, I don't believe this was just an attempt by the Democratic president to gain needed votes from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population-I think he secured those votes long ago.
I know there are a lot of people who are passionate about this subject-my own friends and family coming down on both sides of this issue. But Obama's announcement was definitely met with applause from me-all my biases showing.
Of course, we can expect to hear a lot more on this subject in the coming weeks and months-both nay and yeah.
We'll have the fundamentalist Christians and severe right-wing contingent explaining how this is a move by a "degenerate" segment of our population to undermine the institution of marriage and destroy the sanctity of family.
In contrast, we'll hear highpitched screams of glee from the LGBT component of society, reiterating their argument that it's long overdue.
Since this is an opinion piece bearing my name, I'll let you in on my bias-sprinkled with a little bit of gay history.
I believe this was an incredibly bold move on Obama's part. He is the first sitting U.S. president to come out-shall we say-officially in support of gay marriage.
"It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think samesex couples should be able to get married," Obama said.
While Barack is sure to take a lot of heat on this, and it may-as I alluded before-cost him the presidency, I believe this shows great character, and it shouldn't come as a huge shocker to anyone following this man's career.
It is actually reflective of the work he started as a civil rights attorney in Chicago in the 1990s.
Since he began his reign as prez he's continued to be a powerful spokesperson for the all underdogs -including homosexuals.
He's been vocal on several other gay rights issues. For instance, he took a huge step for human rights when he repealed the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy, not to mention his efforts and influence on hate crime legislation and the support of hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples.
But I'm willing to bet many of his advisors weren't in favour of this latest move, especially in an election year. So kudos to Obama, a revolutionary man!
Gay rights have come a long way in our lifetime. A year after Obama was born, Illinois became the first U.S. state to decriminalize homosexual acts between consent-ing adults. When I was two, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau legislated the state has "no right or duty to creep into the bedrooms of the nation."
Then, one of the most pivotal events-often referred to as the beginning of the gay movement- came in 1969 with the Stonewall riots where a group in New York finally fought back against ongoing government-supported police raids of establishments catering to homosexuals.
That same year, homosexuality was made legal in Canada.
And like most "liberal" issues, the U.S. followed suit a few years later, when in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of official mental disorders. A few years later, it became illegal in Florida to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and soon that law, too, spread worldwide.
Fast forward to 1989, and Denmark became the first country to legalize same-sex marriages. Since then, Belgium, Argentina, Sweden, Spain, Norway, South Africa, Iceland, and the Netherlands, as well as eight provinces and one territory in Canada legalized same-sex marriage. Even a few states have ventured out on that limb.
I've never asked for special-just equal-rights. So I express my personal gratitude to Obama and others who have fought to give us those equal rights, including an ability to legally share our love and life with someone of the same gender.
- Roxanne Hooper is the Langley Advance asst. editor.
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