Obama's support of gay marriage: Why it surprised me, and why it matters

My partner and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary this summer; we met in 1992, and entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2003. We've talked on and off about whether we wanted to take the marriage step; I'm from Massachusetts, and we could tie the knot near my home town.

But it hasn't seemed imperative. And though we've made it a joke that it'd be fun to get married in every possible location where two men could get married these days (Iowa, Barcelona, etc., etc.), there was always a bitter truth underlying the joke ? the necessity to even take such a "marriage tour" reflected the fact that the U.S. government refuses to recognize same-sex unions.

Maybe that's going to change. Obama's statement is "a historic, political and cultural event in this country," Diane Sawyer just said on ABC News. Yes, but it's also a highly personal moment. I'm not sure exactly why I teared up when the president referred to "the members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together..." After all, lots of politicians talk about their wonderful gay friends.

The difference here was that for the first time in history the most powerful person in the country was risking the loss of that power to affirm his friends' equal rights.

Thank you, President Obama. I'll make sure Joe sends you that fiver.

Joe Bardi owes President Obama $5.

In "Shit Happened," Creative Loafing's week-in-review column appearing in tomorrow's print edition, he says this:

"SUNDAY 6: Vice President Joe Biden expresses his 'comfort' with gay marriage, putting President Obama in the uncomfortable position of actually having to take a stand on an issue that’s a slam dunk with his base. $5 says he won’t do it…"

Shortly after the column went to press, we heard the news: Seems like the president decided he could stand to be a little uncomfortable.

I'm still a little stunned by Obama's statement in support of gay marriage. Like Joe, I wasn't expecting it. Frank Bruni's column in Sunday's New York Times, though critical of the president's tentativeness on the issue, seemed to sum up the stakes involved: "It's impossible to assert that marriage equality is a prudent wager for a presidential candidate in 2012." I figured Bruni was right: How could a president declare support for gay marriage in an election year when he has to campaign in, say, North Carolina?

Well, now we will find out.

And I'm surprised how much it matters to me.

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