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President’s support for gay marriage heats up the issue

“I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” President Barack Obama told Robin Roberts of ABC’s “Good Morning America,”

Sitting across from Robin Roberts of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” President Barack Obama on Wednesday (May 9) uttered words that shook up a good bit of the country and immediately caused ripples in Memphis.

 President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC’s “Good Morning America” in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Wednesday. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

“I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” the president told Roberts in an interview that was set to get its first full viewing on Thursday. In the end, the president said, it’s important to “treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

Calling his view on gay marriage as “evolving,” President Obama said he “had hesitated on gay marriage in part” because civil unions seemed to be sufficient.

In Memphis, Linda F. Harris of Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ, acknowledged being taken aback by the president’s newly-stated position on gay marriage.

“Although I am not in agreement with same-sex marriage, the issue is not a deal-breaker for me,” said Harris. “I supported his first campaign with financial contributions, and I plan to continue my support this year. My Christian values dictate opposition to gay marriage, but this is a social issue – not a political bomb. He is still the best hope this country has.”

A Memphis Police Department employee, who asked not to be identified on what is a volatile issue for many, said she and the gay partner that she has been with for almost 20 years believe President Obama will be on the right side of history.

“He believes in equal rights for everyone. I applaud him for taking such a bold stand. Even at the risk of losing supporters, he told the world in a television interview that his personal conviction is now that same-sex couples have the right to marry,” she said. “We supported his first campaign, and of course, we were thrilled. His comments could propel a more honest and open-minded dialogue.

“Tennessee does not recognize gay marriage, but we hope that will change in years to come. We choose who we love. This issue is one some people feel requires justified discrimination. We have hope that one day, we can get married legally in Tennessee. Memphis is our home, and we’ll someday be married here. I have so much faith in our future.”

The Rev. Faye Smith, associate minister at The Healing Center, said, “As Christians, we must always align ourselves with what the word of God says. Our president desires, I believe, to be an advocate of fairness and equality, not just with this issue, but with other important matters regarding social services to the poor and institutionalized disparity of healthcares services to indigents and people of color.”

We are never going to agree with everything anyone says, said Smith.

“President Obama has fought an uphill battle since he got in office. He deserves more than ever our unwavering support. Mr. Obama cares about people, and his policies demonstrate that he values individual well-being above corporate interests, unlike his Republican detractors. They are the ones making this issue a political football – not him,” said Smith.

“My opinion has not changed regarding President Obama. We will work to get him elected to a second term. I like what he has tried to do for the working poor and the middle-class families. He is still the right choice.”

A hotel general manager, who only would identify himself as Jimmy, said he and his partner have plans to move to a state that recognizes gay marriage.

“Until then, we remain in a loving, exclusive relationship. There is this misconception that all gay men sleep around and that we are responsible for the continued spread of HIV/AIDS,” he said. “I live with my best friend, and the love of my life. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to legally get married. We want to build a life together, maybe adopt children, raise them, and grow old together.

“Gay marriage is about equal rights. That’s it. There is so much buzz on the Internet. We are excited about what the president said. If he evolved to this position, then so can others. We’ll see what happens here. Maybe we won’t have to move after all.”

Soon after excerpts from President Obama’s interview began to circulate, Tennessee’s Republican Party Chair Chris Devaney released a statement accusing the president of “playing politics for years with the issue of same-sex marriage.”

In the statement, Devaney said, “President Obama has finally made his true position known. The majority of Tennesseans do not support the president on this issue, and I’m curious if Tennessee Democrats will stand by their president on this one.”

Across the country and through various mediums, many worked into the evening to spread their take on President Obama’s new stance. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Mary Kay Henry celebrated the president’s position on “marriage equality.”

Across this country, right-wing Republican politicians are seeking to divide us with attacks on immigrants, the middle class, women’s health, the environment and the LGBT community – but the growing numbers of Americans who believe in marriage equality reminds us that we cannot live up to our promise as a nation until we extend equal rights to all, said Henry.

“To those who have chosen to stand on the wrong side of history, we say this: There is growing momentum for equality in this country. And with each American that believes in equality, we are reminded that the continued dream of equality is our birthright, our heritage and our promise.”


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