Befitting the beatification the President has received since coming out in support of gay marriage, Newsweek put a rainbow-colored halo over Obama’s head on its new issue, hitting newsstands tomorrow. The cover line bills him as “The First Gay President.”
It’s an ironic nod to Toni Morrison calling Bill Clinton America’s first black president, because he was raised by a poor single mother and loved McDonald’s. (her sentiment, not ours.) In much the same way, though Obama is heterosexual, he is in synch with what it means to be an outsider, to be mistrusted—even hated—for somethinghe has no control over.
Earlier this week, Andrew Sullivan (who penned the yet-to-be-posted cover feature) discussed the President’s groundbreaking statement on the Daily Beast:
I do not know how orchestrated this was; and I do not know how calculated it is. What I know is that, absorbing the news, I was uncharacteristically at a loss for words for a while, didn’t know what to write, and,… there are tears in my eyes.
So let me simply say: I think of all the gay kids out there who now know they have their president on their side. I think of Maurice Sendak, who just died, whose decades-long relationship was never given the respect it deserved. I think of the centuries and decades in which gay people found it impossible to believe that marriage and inclusion in their own families was possible for them, so crushed were they by the weight of social and religious pressure. I think of all those in the plague years shut out of hospital rooms, thrown out of apartments, written out of wills, treated like human garbage because they loved another human being. I think of Frank Kameny. I think of the gay parents who now feel their president is behind their sacrifices and their love for their children.The interview changes no laws; it has no tangible effect. But it reaffirms for me the integrity of this man we are immensely lucky to have in the White House. Obama’s journey on this has been like that of many other Americans, when faced with the actual reality of gay lives and gay relationships. Yes, there was politics in a lot of it. But not all of it. I was in the room long before the 2008 primaries when Obama spoke to the mother of a gay son about marriage equality. He said he was for equality, but not marriage. Five years later, he sees–as we all see–that you cannot have one without the other. But even then, you knew he saw that woman’s son as his equal as a citizen. It was a moment–way off the record at the time–that clinched my support for him.
Today Obama did more than make a logical step. He let go of fear. He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That’s why we elected him.