The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Obama changes legal stance on gay marriage

Is change indication of deeper cultural shift?

If recent events in Washington, D.C. and Maryland are any indication, it’s only a matter of time before every gay man and woman in America is granted the fundamental right to marry.

We also are fast approaching the day when a vast majority of Americans stand strong for the inalienable dignity and equality that’s for too long been denied gays and lesbians. Discrimination will have soon gone the way of racism and sexism. It will be remembered by all but a tiny percentage of willful bigots as a rare stain on this country’s exceptional legacy of inclusion and equality.

Last Wednesday, the Justice Department announced that it would no longer argue for the Defense of Marriage Act in court. President Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, have concluded that the law, which refuses federal recognition of same-sex marriages, is unconstitutional.

Coming as it did on the heels of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’s repeal, the decision invigorated gay-rights activists who had once thought Obama less than enthusiastic towards their cause.

The next night, Maryland’s state senate passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. It appears that the Maryland House will do the same, and the state’s governor, Martin O’Malley, has already indicated that he will sign the bill into law.

All these achievements would ordinarily seem like great steps forward in the “culture wars” that have for the past few decades served as wedge issues in our political discourse.

Given the vitriol that has accompanied similar measures in the past, we should have expected great denunciations of the latest liberal assault on the nuclear family. But that didn’t happen. Braced for an explosion, we heard only crickets.

The most forceful opposition to gay marriage has traditionally come from the right, although many Democrats have proven less than courageous on the issue themselves. But in the wake of the Justice Department’s announcement, the major players of the Republican establishment said very little. Hotshots like Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels were either silent or muted in their criticism. Those who did oppose Obama’s decision tended to focus more on its legal aspects, shying away from the standard perversions of morality and religion that have for too long been leveled against civil rights.

This relative silence from the right is a monumental shift in the way this country views gay rights, and one that gives me hope that the Republican Party will come to champion equal protection for gay couples as a partial solution to the many social problems that so desperately require stable and supportive families.

This welcome change in the conservative community is in fact not surprising.

Today, a majority of Americans finally believe that the government should recognize same-sex marriage. If the Republican Party hopes to remain viable in the future, it must accommodate these evolving attitudes. And there is every indication that it has begun to do so.

Some of its most visible leaders themselves have become outspoken supporters of the cause for equal rights. Dick Cheney and former first daughter Barbara Bush have publicly come out on the side of gay marriage. Ken Mehlman, the universally-respected former chair of the Republican National Committee, recently acknowledged that he is gay, an announcement that was greeted by general support from the conservative community.

All this is not to suggest that homophobia is a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, there remains great injustice in our social, political and legal treatment of gays and lesbians. But for those of us who believe in progress and expect the most from our friends and countrymen, there is great cause for hope.

Someday soon, we will live in a world in which a person’s sexuality is accepted as just one more part of the remarkable person they are.

Nathaniel French is a senior theater major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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