A debt of gratitude is owed to President Obama on gay marriage

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 4/10/2013, 7:20 a.m.

He backed gay rights in speeches and legislation 18 times before he grabbed the White House. He showed the same support and sensitivity in his appointments. He was only the second president to speak at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign. The fact is that the group thought enough of his gay rights advocacy to invite him. Obama lent his name to opponents of Proposition 8 — which sought to eliminate the rights of same-sex couples in California to marry — to use in mailers that they circulated, and did the same in the case of other initiatives in other states.

Obama sent a subtle signal of his gay rights support on the Defense of Marriage Act. He could have kept his hands off the issue by letting the legal challenge to it run its course. Other presidents had done that when they thought a law was unconstitutional or unjust. This argument, though, ignored what Obama had said about traditional marriage too, not to mention that he made it plain that he wanted the law repealed through legislation that he would push for.

Presidents can and often do make a big difference in pushing the nation forward on an issue. Obama’s stance on gay marriage was proof of that. Gays, and indeed the nation, should be thankful for that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.