Politicising homosexuality: A make or break for US presidents

Published: May 24, 2012

The struggle of gay union and gay rights has always been a strong issue in the United States. PHOTO: REUTERS

The president of the United States, dispelled all doubt his democratic supporters or republican opposition had earlier this month when he spoke in support of gay marriage in a televised interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News

The announcement comes at a sensitive time as this is election year and gay rights, union, and marriage have always been a sensitive political subject for those on the Hill and all citizens of the United States.

Although the first amendment of the American Constitution’s Bill of Rights includes the freedom of association, laws for and against same-sex unions have always attempted to shift the legality of gay marriage in the United States.

This issue brings to the forefront the hypocrisy of specific laws in the United States. While the Bill of Rights may outline the flexibility of living in the country – such as freedom of religion, speech, expression, association and so on – the laws banning the union and/or marriage of same-sex couples violates that “flexibility”.

The United States is a country that has strong foundations condemning religious persecution. It is home to many citizens who initially fled their homelands where they may have faced that same persecution, or racial, gender, or ethnic persecution. Thus, the laws that exist should recognise the right of a person to marry another person of his/her choice – and it should be exactly that, his/her choice.

It’s like when someone criticises a culture for believing in arranged marriages, but then doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage. Is it not, in a way, a type of “arranged marriage” when one makes same-sex marriage illegal? It is an attempt at forcing someone to only have the option of marrying a person of the opposite sex. A stretch, I know, but an attempt at contextualising the problem.

The struggle of gay union and gay rights has always been a strong issue in the United States. Even for President Obama who decided to show support for gay union back in 2008 when he ran for office the first time, but fell short of being in support of gay marriage. It apparently is all about semantics.

However, in 2012, President Barack Obama is the first ever president in office to come out in support of gay marriage. For the 21st century, for the supporters of freedom of association and for the people of the United States who believe in an individual’s choice, this is a victory. And to add to President Obama’s support are the American public. In a poll conducted by Langer Research Association for ABC, the group found that 53% of Americans were in favor of legalising gay marriage while 39% were strongly opposed to the idea.

Sceptics have criticised the president’s timing, some saying that he is vying for more votes right before election time and others saying that his announcement is too late to make any real different in the election. Whether or not this is true is irrelevant. However, what is true is that the legality of gay union is still up to individual states, not the federal government. A day prior to the president’s announcement, the state of North Carolina banned same-sex marriage. And to this day, only six states allow same-sex marriage, including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

While gay rights and union will be a constant uphill battle in America, President Obama’s announcement is a step in the right direction.

Read more by Manal here or Follow her on Twitter @ManalShakir1

manal.shakir

Manal Shakir

A freelance journalist in Chicago, IL who tweets @ManalShakir1

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • EyeRoll

    ET’s favourite topic once again being publicised. How is the Americans stance on the issue even relevant to us Pakistanis??Recommend

  • Mj

    @EyeRoll:
    Not everyone wants to have a provincial outlook. Recommend

  • Abudl Moiz

    The intolerance towards the LGBT community is not surprising in a society like ours where religion has gradually inserted itself into every aspect of public life.And these same people of ours cry and scream the most when they go to western countries,that they don’t treat minorities like muslims in a good manner,well,first learn to treat minorities in your own country well and then ask others to do so.Religious and sexual minorities face a lot of abuse and hate in our society,especially from the religious segment in our society.It is time pakistan improved its record with regard to LGBT rights.Recommend

  • Saima Khan

    Homophobia is rampant anywhere where religion is allowed to dominate society.Seeing the hate towards gays and lesbians in our country one realises the harm an extreme obsession with religion can do.
    We have relegated gays to the lower strata of society,they are treated as outcasts,someone to ridicule and make jokes about.The way we treat gays and lesbians exposes our real bigoted and hatefilled faces.Recommend

  • Naveed Amjad

    @EyeRoll:
    Why does the mere mention of homosexuality irritate you so much? Why so much fear and hatred towards the gays? Why can’t you accept people for who they are.Recommend

  • Asif Rahim

    Most of the people ridiculing and attacing gays are exhibiting signs of self-hatred.A lot of studies and research over the years has shown that people hating gays are cloest gays themselves,they try to prove to the world how straight they are by abusing and making fun of other gay people.
    The following is the latest study on this:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/opinion/sunday/homophobic-maybe-youre-gay.html?_r=1&ref=opinionRecommend

  • Muhammad Tariq

    A lot of the opposition to gay marriage in pakistan comes from the religious leaders who have been feeding a steady diet of homophobia to their followers.This intolerance of people because of their sexual orientation is disturbing.Homosexuality is as normal as heterosexuality is.Gays and lesbians have always been present ever since humans came into being.The people who knowingly want to live in denial are only deluding themselves.Recommend

  • Saima khan

    There is a definite element of religious indoctriantion as far as homophobia is concerned.Pretending otherwise is only fooling one’s self.In our country also,it’s the religious fanatics who make the lives of gays difficult the most.The clerics indulging in hate speech against gays and lesbians need to be taken to task by the government.Recommend

  • Big Rizvi

    Pakistan is a strange country. Here gender-mixing is frowned upon and homosexuality is hated with so much venom. Porn is also looked down upon. Can’t our religious leaders make up our minds? Sex is a natural need for the human body, without this ‘devilish’ need, the world would cease to exist. :/Recommend

  • not impressed

    what does this have to do with us?
    again,
    what does this have to do with us?
    American Politics 101Recommend

  • ashar

    Who are gays and who are lesbians? can any body explain it to me. Is it a basic instinct. Well, I believe it is an outcome of extreme frustration and emotional shocks that leads to make a person carry that level of hatred to other sex.
    Have any body read the history of sodomy?Recommend

  • EyeRoll

    @MJ and Naveed
    No I dont fear or hate the homosexuality, i just think the entire logic behind why it should be legalised to be a farce. They are an anomaly to society, and until recently even the American Psychologists Association recognised themselves it as deviant behaviour and mental illness. But no, since the Americans have now decided to recognise it as a human right, so must the rest of us. Please dont give me the hooha over homosexuality being an natural orientation, by that logic psychologists have found even paedophilia, psychopathy and bestiality to be a natural sexual orientation in some people. Should we recognise those too? Recommend

  • IndiKid

    It is very brave of Mr Obama to support Gay marriage. All people must be treated with respect and dignity and must have same rights. Therefore HOMOSEXUALS must be allowed to marry. I am an Indian but I think its really a positive thing that has happened in the US.Recommend

  • Shah Jive- Texas

    Living in the US all of my adult life, the US has had some issues that have surfaced in its history and homosexuality was a front burner topic. The religious right from Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell made it a central issue they equated homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia.
    The Catholic church and other religious institutions have joined in this blind hatred towards homosexuality. They predicated that if you touched a homosexual it could turn you gay and you were not allowed to serve in the military or you could lose your job and after a lot of soul searching and educating the people America is correcting those wrongs. Religious people will always have their right to believe the doctrine their religion teaches them but younger Americans who work, live and play with homosexuals have led the way to change.
    When President Obama changed the military policy the religious groups predicted that a mass amount of troops would walk out in protest, and it never happened. As certain States allowed same sex marriage there was no change in heterosexual marriage.
    The attraction to try and claim that being gay is a choice then let those people explain why would anybody choose to be gay if you can get killed in the West or hanged in an Islamic country? Recommend

  • Parvez

    I thought you handled that pretty nicely. Double standards exist everywhere. The issue that I have is that the same high values / morals that America holds for itself are thrown out the window when dealing with the rest of the world. I am talking about a picture bigger than just gay marriages.Recommend

  • IndiKid

    @ashar: You are absolutely wrong. Please read about homosexuality from science websites and read about the lives of gay and lesbian people from wikipedia or books, then you would know better. Attraction is an orientation just like your race/ height. It doesn’t develop. It is there by birth in a small (5-10%) of human population in every societyRecommend

  • Riaz Khan

    @Big Rizvi:
    But pedophilia in the name of marriage is accepted…..

    The rape victim is blamed for enticing the rapist to rape her….

    Killing your daughter who decided to choose her husband is called honor….

    Indeed,we live in a strange country…..Recommend

  • uncle

    Betas who’re blowing steam at this topic, learn to be tolerantRecommend

  • So sad

    Aaahh finally the monthly gay support article by tribune ! people helping “express gay tribune” intentionally and unintentionally in this agenda will bite their hands with regret one day ! Recommend

  • Zeta

    In Islam, Its explicitly written that homosexuality is prohibited. Now Pakistan is an Islamic country, If you have problem with that, you are kindly asked to leave the country.Recommend

  • Ahmed HM

    ET’s favorite topic, once again ! :)
    I don’t understand how American politics is given so much importance in tribune.Recommend

  • raw is war

    I dont think Obama is politicising this issue. he already promised in his election campaign that he would do Justice to Homo-sexual community. He is just upholding his promise.Recommend

  • Sahar

    @ all the supporters:
    So what about the father daughter marriage? and Mother son sexual relation? Every one should be treated with fair respect at least its their own will naa ! Soon your bergade would be writing on and off in their support as well !
    I don’t know why its the broad mindedness and coolness factor to favor all the stances like these ! Islam is totally not based on “Live and let live policy” Its all about “Amar bil maroof,and nhi anil munkir”
    Any anti-natural activity is totally forbidden in our religion ! Either you like that way or not !
    Religion can’t be manipulated by our wishes and wills. To be or not to be.Recommend

  • Awais

    @Sahar:
    Why impose your religion on others? “Our religion calls for this, that and whatever”. Recommend

  • Big Rizvi

    @Riaz Khan: Yes, I do not seem to fathom the strange Pakistani society at all sometimes.Recommend

  • Shah Jiva Texas

    @Sahar you pick a page from the homophobic intolerant Christian right arguments from America where family inbreeding is compared to homosexuality before you make such claims please present significant scientific evidence. Using family inbreeding and bestiality has been a desperate ploy to discourage homosexuality
    I have been with my partner for 15 years, we are both doctors in the Austin area and have had to face hatred and discrimination from society and family.We are raising two children my partner is of the Jewish faith and I am Muslim we are a prominent part of our community and are involved as the years we have experienced more love and acceptance and who are any of you to judge us? We have great professions, many super friends of the heterosexual persuasion and they love us and accept us. Recommend

  • Ayesha Pervez

    I dont know where the world is heading to? Many are trying to make homosexuality become accepted and normal. It is NOT normal. Look at the plan of nature, man + woman = chid. All of you are hypocrites… you are siding with homosexuals yet if one of your child God forbid or family member discloses that he/she is gay then all hell will break loose. We all know that homosexuality is WRONG, thats why gays and lesbians hide it. Its wrong!!!Recommend

  • Katarina

    @Sahar:
    A father-daughter relationship would be harmful for the daughter and also lead to genetical diseases for the children. A homosexual relationship between two adults does not harm anyone. If you do not want to have a homosexual relationship for religious (or other) reasons that is your choice. But why would you impose your opinions on other people?

    I admire the courage Obama is showing. There is still a lot of opposition against gay marriage in US but the situation is improving all the time. Recommend

  • Katarina

    @Ayesha Pervez:
    Not everyone thinks that homosexuality is wrong but too many. That is why many gay/lesbian people have to hide it.

    It is actually quite interesting to ready about the history regarding LGBT issues:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_historyRecommend

  • http://www.twitter.com/ahsanzee Ahsan

    @Sahar:

    Well according to what you just said Homosexuality is forbidden because it is unnatural so by that logic if we can scientifically prove to you that it exists in nature and is by-birth then would that make it acceptable to you? or will it cause you to “improve” your translation of relegious texts to suit your world view once more?Recommend

  • ayesha_khan

    Politicising homosexuality is not new in US politics. Atleast since 2000 US republicans have made this a poll issue. Now Democrats have joined the battle since they have realized negotiation and a nuanced position will not lead anywhere with Republicans.Recommend

  • ayesha_khan

    @Muhammad Tariq: “A lot of the opposition to gay marriage in pakistan ”

    Wait. In US for a long time now, homo sexuality per se has NOT been illegal. It is only a question of legality of gay marriage. In Pakistan, homosexuality itself is not just illegal, it is not even a subject which is discussed openly. So question of gay marriage is very very far.Recommend

  • ayesha_khan

    @Ayesha Pervez: “We all know that homosexuality is WRONG, thats why gays and lesbians hide it. ”

    Wrong. They hide it only in countries where they would be persecuted if it were revealed that they are gay. They do not hide it because it is wrong.Recommend

  • Ayesha Pervez

    It saddens me to see so many people ferociously siding with homosexuality … soon we will see other haraam things being openly accepted too… like incest … “Oh but the sister and brother are in love … as long as they are both happy, its all good! whats wrong with that??” …. sigh* Recommend

  • Terry

    Excellent article. I agree with you. I must say – you express yourself better than a large majority of people who write on this topic here in the USA. Also, the comments are almost all intelligently written and show disagreement and a variety of views while remaining civil. Kudos to your website.Recommend

  • Tahira Balouch

    @Ayesha Pervez“ We all know that homosexuality is WRONG, thats why gays and lesbians hide it.

    No @Ayesha Pervez you are twisting words to support your ancient bias, gays and lesbians don’t hide it because it is wrong or they are ashamed but because the holier-than-thou crowd of fundamental religious bigots want to hunt them down and get rid of them.
    People who are vehemently against homosexuality are at times closeted themselves because society has made it such a hot button issue to hide their queer feelings they scream the loudest!
    Please explain the rampant homosexuality that exists in Pakistan it is not talked about but what do young men when they reach puberty do to follow the rigid principles of their religion deny them any types of sexual activity they dabble in innocent male to male contact to satisfy their growing hormones !
    Just because we do not talk about it does NOT mean it does not exist!
    Homosexuality is thriving and growing in Pakistan so lets drop the hypocritical stance and jump on the reality train,Recommend

  • Ayesha Pervez

    @Tahira Balouch Call me dumb, backward, hating, biased, call me anything but I will never. ever support homosexuality. It is not normal. And please, just because I am speaking against it does not mean I am a closet gay… jeez no… never felt attracted to a person of my gender, never will… sickens me to the stomach. It is not just the Quraan, give me one religious text which supports Homosexuality. It is a mental illness. And — I never said it doesnt exist … ofcourse it exists but so does incest, rape, paedophilia, necrophilia, serial killing and a host of other evil things.Recommend

  • Ayesha Pervez

    @Katarina Are you for real? Homosexual relationships dont harm anyone??? They harm the very individuals themselves! Did you know gays have a greater chance of contracting HIV/AIDs, Syphilis & other STDS. Common practices among homosexual men lead to numerous STDs and physical injuries, some of which are “virtually unknown” in the heterosexual population.
    Furthermore It is well established that there are high rates of psychiatric illnesses, including depression, drug abuse, and suicide attempts, among gays and lesbians.

    More info:

    Life Span

    The only epidemiological study to date on the life span of gay men concluded that gay and bisexual men lose up to 20 years of life expectancy.

    Monogamy

    Monogamy, meaning long-term fidelity, is rare in GLB relationships, particularly among gay men. One study reported that 66 percent of gay couples reported physical relationship outside the relationship within the first year, and nearly 90 percent if the relationship lasted five years.

    Source John R DiggsRecommend

  • http://pharaohdaniyal.tumblr.com/ Daaniyaal Ali Mirza

    @Ayesha Pervez:
    Obviously there will be drug abuse and psychiatric illness because they are oppressed and subjugated to violence, bigotry, and hate! As for what you have said about the contraction of STD’s, yes anal sex contracts disease easier, however, there are things called condoms. As for harming the individuals themselves, it is their RIGHT to choose what lifestyle they want to lead it. As far as monogamy goes, it is not a central clause, if you knew what most gay marriages are like, they are open, meaning the partner knows about their physical relationship with others.

    Heterosexual relationships have relatively the same, if not greater, divorce rates in countries/states where homosexual marriage is legal.

    This is coming from a straight male.Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @ashar:
    You THINK its outcome of hate that mature sensible ppl subject themselves to open critisim from all and sundry and further hatred from the right wings like yourslf ! coming from those who donot even know who gay/lesbians are ! never approached or tried to understand them yet is content on citing thousands ov years old refrences with a religious background !Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Ayesha Pervez:
    Its not the fact that you wont support homosexuality thats disturbing but the fact that you seem to think some else needs ur approval or support to live their own private and personal life !
    How does it concerns you or the likes of you ! What fundamental rights of yours are violated by someone elses Private business ! the ppl you do not support suddenly you are worried about their health issues ! Who’s the hypocrite now !
    Whatever are too consenting adults doing is none of anybody elses business !
    Neither is their right to name their relationshp what they seem fit !
    All you nosy red necks need to learn to mind their own business !Recommend

  • Tahira Balouch

    @Ayesha Pervez I dont think the homosexuals will disintegrate as a society. You have every right to feel the way you do but unless you can provide any scientific proof, it’s a mental illness. Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Ayesha Pervez:
    For starters most of the researches you quoted were done by the same fundamentalists that until a decade ago regarded being gay a mental illness so of course they are biased, but for what part of them are true @Daaniyaal Ali Mirza: pointed them out quite nicely
    Also Long-term relationships mean that the chances of them being made are higher ! so if they want to avoid being chased by the witch-hunting psychotic Mob they tend to move on !
    Men Hetro or otherwise have extra marital affairs “Period” more in comparision to women ! Most homo men have hetro marriages and children so they dont even risk committing to another guy.
    Also Ppl in general are sadomasochistic when it comes to sex Hetro men go to dominatrixes if they can that is.. Others inflict pain on their partners ..Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Ayesha Pervez:
    If you really want to point out the evil Object “infidelity” to one’s faithful partners in an exclusive relationship! create awarness regarding safe sex !Recommend

  • Katarina

    @Ayesha Pervez:
    Homosexual people have unfortunately live a much harder life than heterosexuals and that is why of course there is a higher proportion of eg depression. Regarding HIV I have understood that in the beginning of the epidemy it was more common among homosexuals but now especially sex workers and drug users are the groups where it is most common. And then in certain African countries like Uganda. Hit has nothing to do with homosexuality but with practices (unprotected sex, lot of relationships such as with sexual workers).

    My daughter is lesbian and I admit that it was hard in the beginning to accept that. But after a lot of thinking I came to the conclusion that the important thing is that she is happy. Who am I to judge her? In our country we had now a presidential race and one of the candidates were gay. He is living with his spouse in a registered partnerhsip (here it is still forbidden to get married but you can register your partnership). So what if we would have had as a “first lady” a guy? He lost the race but because of other reasons but I was delighted to see that our country is now mature enough for gay relationships.

    I know that human rights in Pakistan will also improve and in the future you will have gay marriages. Recommend

  • Lalita Haider

    Even though Pakistan is behind in recognizing Gays & Lesbians the rights for transgenders is ahead in Pakistan than most Asian countries this is a surprising wave change in the Government, the Legal system. There will always be some naysayers who are ready to be judge and jury the fact that this topic is getting so much attention is an indication that gays & lesbians in Pakistan in the near future will struggle but achieve equal rights.
    If we look at the civil rights in America the majority who were against it were of the religious persuasion quoting various passages to support their view. But it was the wiser element of the American public who saw the wrong treatment to black Americans in the same way the younger Pakistanis will be the breaking factor to bring chance as human rights in Pakistan will also improve and in the future you will have gay rights.Recommend