Obama Marriage Equality Stance Lauded in WeHo

By Aaron Blevins, 5/17/2012

Random Sampling of Opinions Reveals Strong Support


It’s been called President Barack Obama’s coming out party, and it’s being applauded with a guarded optimism in West Hollywood.

Last week, in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, Obama said he supports same-sex marriage, after saying previously that his views on the matter were evolving. The interview fo-llowed Vice President Joe Biden’s public support of same-sex marriage and North Car-olina’s adoption of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“At a certain point I 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,” Obama said.

West Ho-llywood Ma-yor Jeffrey Prang said he was thrilled by the president’s anno-uncement and surprised by the timing, considering his upcoming bid for re-election in November.

“It demonstrated a great deal of political fortitude, and it will have a significant impact on the national debate. …I think it adds a whole new dimension to the debate over marriage equality, and it’s my hope it’ll spur other states to grant marriage rights,” he said.

Prang, who is in a legal same-sex marriage, said he believes the president’s comments will give other same-sex couples hope that they will enjoy marriage rights in the future. He didn’t expect Obama, however, to make such a statement until his second term.

“It’ll have both positive and negative repercussions for him, I believe,” Prang added.

L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center CEO Lorri Jean said that, up until his televised comments, she had been very frustrated with the president, as every day he stayed silent cast a pall over marriage equality efforts.

“When he finally did it … I was very relieved and very happy,” she said. “I think that this is a watershed moment to have a sitting president speak up on this issue in the way he did.”

The message should resonate among LGBT youth, who have spent their entire lives imagining that they will be able to marry the ones they love, Jean said. She said their self-esteem sho-uld jump, regardless of any bigotry, since the “most powerful human on the planet” is in their corner.

“You just cannot overestimate the value of having that happen,” Jean added.

She issued an open letter to Obama, thanking him for his leadership on the issue. As someone who has been fighting for LGBT rights since the 1980s, Jean had been waiting on the president to make such an announcement since his first day in office.

“Now I can support you not only with my intellect, but with my whole heart,” she said.

Reports have surfaced that Biden essentially pushed Obama’s hand by making a televised statement regarding his support of same-sex marriage just a few days earlier. That didn’t make any difference to Jean.

“I don’t really care what made him do it,” she said. “I’m just glad he did.”

On the streets of West Hollywood, those who agreed to an interview were overwhelmingly in support of Obama’s stance. Phillip Lu, who was raising funds for the upcoming AIDS/LifeCycle bike ride at the corner of Hancock and Santa Monica avenues on Tuesday, said the Republicans still worry him, but he was pleased with Obama’s support for the cause.

“I think it’s great that our president is actually affirming same-sex marriage,” Lu said. “It really does bring back hope.”

Santino Caruso was riding a stationary bike at the intersection to help Lu raise the $3,000 he needs to participate in the bike ride. He said Obama’s comments were “very gutsy,” though necessary.

“I think it’s about time somebody stood up for the community,” Caruso said.

Hollywood resident Randy Johnson echoed those statements.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “It helps loosen the walls of prejudice.”

Constant Walker said he hoped Obama’s co-mments we-re not just a political pl-oy, but “he doesn’t seem like a guy like that.”

“I think it’s good,” Walker said. “I don’t think anybody should be denied the right to be together.”

West Hollywood resident Esmeralda Portillo said she was certain that Obama was sincere.

“I’m very proud that we have a president that finally came out and took a stance,” she said.

Following the Robin Roberts interview, Obama issued an e-mail with a simple subject line: “Marriage”. In it, he reiterated his comments and explained the “evolution” of his same-sex marriage beliefs.

Obama said he’s always believed that LGBT Americans should be treated equally and fairly; however, he was of the belief that civil union laws were a solution to the same-sex marriage issue.

Over the years, through conversations with friends, family, staff members and U.S. military personnel, he realized the denial of marriage equality makes gay and lesbian couples essentially feel like second-class citizens.

“I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines,” Obama wrote. “But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.”



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