President Obama sent the media and public “a-twitter” with his public support for gay marriage last week. Newspapers, blogs and social networking sites have been buzzing with opinions and articles regarding the implications of this announcement. In his interview on ABC news on May 9th, Obama stated unequivocally, “I've 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.”
Many United Church of Christ friends celebrated this moment on Facebook and the UCC’s General Minister and President, Rev. Geoffrey Black, issued a powerful affirmation of Obama’s statement attesting to the “countless testimonies” of same gender couples in the UCC who live the “vocation of marriage” as well as anyone. As a member of Hope United Church of Christ, an Open and Affirming UCC church with several same gender couples, I experience this truth as well.
Not surprisingly, though, not everyone is celebrating this moment. As I found on my own Facebook wall, many of my friends are divided on the issue. Amidst a flurry of comments celebrating this moment, one friend dismissively suggested that it was “just politics.” Really? He dismissed this as a historic moment for civil rights because of his belief that the President’s statement was politically motivated. I removed this comment knowing that it did not reflect my opinion and it might be hurtful to those for whom this moment is one of deep celebration. This comment, though, caused me to think and wrestle with this question the past few days.
No doubt whatever a President does during an election year can easily be broken down, polled, and assessed for its political impact. Yet over the past few days polls have shown that despite a slim 51% public support for Obama’s position, those states expected to be close in the presidential election (OH, FL, PA, NC, CO) all have laws or constitutional provisions that prohibit same-sex marriage. In these states, the President’s statement may hurt his chances in the election. And he did this for pure political gain?
I’d like to think that Obama’s “evolution” on the topic of gay marriage had something to do with the fact that he spent over twenty years in a United Church of Christ congregation. The United Church of Christ has a long history of affirming and working for equal rights for LGBTQ persons. I know for me, my own perspective was shaped through experiencing the genuine love I saw in same-gender relationships of my friends and colleagues in seminary. Whatever Obama’s motivation to declare his support for same-sex marriage last week, there are moments when we must put aside politics and celebrate. This is one of those moments. Let’s celebrate this historic point for our country. And even more importantly, let’s celebrate this profound moment for the millions of same gender loving couples in our churches and communities.
UCC “I Do!” resource: http://www.ucc.org/news/i-do-addresses-real-world.html
Rev. Geoffrey Black’s statements: http://www.ucc.org/news/ucc-leader-applauds-obama.html
The United Church of Christ has more than 5,277 churches throughout the United States. Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation. UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.