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.

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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.