Like millions of other Americans, I was both surprised and excited to hear President Obama’s statement in support of same-sex marriage on May 9. However, I soon realized that although Obama has made himself the first president to openly support same-sex marriage, he has done little to change the problems facing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) community and likely planned this move simply to raise money for his upcoming presidential campaign.
What makes marriage laws unique, contrary to federal laws, is the fact that they are controlled by the states. This means that without significantly editing the United States Constitution, the federal government cannot make laws regarding same-sex marriage.
Therefore, Obama’s words, however symbolic, will have little practical effect. It seems very unlikely, for instance, that the government of North Carolina, which just passed a bill banning same-sex marriages, will be persuaded by one person’s opinion, even if that person is the President of the United States.
The problem is that, because all the front-runners of the Republican Party have stated their disapproval of gay marriage, most LGBTQ supporters were going to vote for Obama anyway. No doubt Obama has realized this, which is why this declaration is likely a move to raise money for his campaign.
Junior and Samo Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) co-president Logan Henderson has mixed sentiments about the president’s statement.
“It’s wonderful that the LGBTQ community has the most important figure in our nation to support us,” Henderson said. “However, I don’t feel that his statement has a grand effect on the state’s decision on marriage equality. I admire [Obama’s] actions, but that doesn’t mean he will do anything about it or try to pass any laws. Either way, it’s still the state’s choice whether to legalize same-sex marriage.”
In addition, Henderson, like many others, believes that there are many subconscious biases present in our society, many of which will not be diminished with a statement from the president.
“An issue that is almost always left out is that when LGBTQ people are discussed in the media it’s most often in a negative light,” Henderson said. “For instance, they will say an LGBTQ person has been murdered or beaten. The media tends to focus on the identity as if that were the problem.”
Though he has pleased many of his supporters by backing same-sex marriage, Obama may not have had completely selfless intentions. It seems too much of a coincidence that Obama’s stance has finished, in his words, “evolving” right in time for elections, and makes it seem that his goal is to win monetary support from the LGBTQ community.
This may be a cynical outlook, but it’s one that makes sense, as many of Obama’s supporters and opponents have been calling for his position on the issue of same-sex marriage for years. If Obama wanted to win over the LGBTQ community members for his November campaign, accumulating large donations in the process, he could not have chosen a better time.
Though Obama’s support of gay marriage is a step forward, it is a microscopic one. It is only as large as the sentiments of a single person who is coming to terms with his beliefs on same-sex marriage. While he is the President of the United States and because of this his opinion carries weight, Obama will not have much of an impact on legislation because he cannot decide what to do about gay marriage. It is up to the citizens to support or oppose gay marriage rights.