What most of you don't know is that today is my birthday. And I just got the best birthday present ever - from the President of the United States. News is now breaking that President Obama has become the first president ever to endorse marriage equality while in office.
I knew he'd get there! Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
There are so many thoughts bubbling in my head now. So many emotions. So much happiness, so much joy, so much gratitude. But more than all of it, for me, it's a vindication. Not for marriage - I never needed anyone else to vindicate my belief that people like myself and millions of other gay Americans deserve the same rights, responsibilities and legal recognition as every other American, and that gay couples deserve the same rights, responsibilities and legal recognition as our heterosexual counterparts.
My vindication is not about the President validating that simple but unyielding principle. It is, rather, a vindication of my faith in Barack Obama. When I decided to support Barack Obama in the primaries, from my fellow LGBT activists, I took some grief. This is certainly not a commentary on the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, but I was told by many that Barack Obama was hostile to LGBT Americans, that not supporting Clinton during the primaries was a betrayal of the LGBT community itself. Even after President Obama's election, in June of 2009, I recall being hammered at San Francisco pride by an activist friend of mine who lamented about Rick Warren at the inauguration, and told me how the new president had betrayed gay people.
But none of that made me ever forget that Barack Obama was the candidate that went to churches - especially historically black Churches - and talked to them about dignity, fairness and equality for gay people. Not from a place of authority but from a place of faith, justice, and a deep belief in America. A deep belief and understanding of what it truly means for the arc of history to bends towards justice. He didn't have to do that. But he did it, because he believes that freedom is but an empty gesture without true equality.
I remember more recently the debate on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And I remember my community - the gay activist community - often doubting that the President really intended to let gay patriots serve our country openly. Too many berated him for what they saw as him dragging his feet. Why won't he just sign an executive order halting enforcement, we heard asked. When I tried to explain that that would only delay Congressional action and could be undone by another president, I was told I was being a shill for the White House. That I was abandoning my community.
I knew better. I knew that this president did not make empty promises. I knew that he believed in his heart that who you love should not be a barrier to service to the country you love. I knew that he would keep his promise. And he did.
And then there is today. Today, history was made as the President spoke those words: "same-sex couples should be able to get married." For me, that was emotional. That was heart-stopping. That was vindicating. That vindicated my faith in a president who has continued to work on our side whether or not our community has always stuck by him. It vindicated my faith in a president who expanded federal hate crimes laws to cover hate crimes against gay and transgender people, in the president who expanded family medical leave to same sex partners, ensured that hospitals honored the dignity of the partner of a sick patient, and lifted the HIV entry ban.
My faith in Barack Obama has never been blind. As a matter of fact, those who know where I have been politically throughout the years know that I did not start out in this man's corner. He won me over with what he was willing to do not just for gay Americans but for ordinary people of all stripes. I never needed to have blind faith. Barack Obama has shown me time and again that when it came to human dignity - whether in terms of economic security or civil rights - he has always been, or in this case ultimately came to, the right side of history.
Why now, some would ask. Was it political? Was he really "evolving" or did he always hold this view but wouldn't express it for political reasons? I am not in Barack Obama's head. But let me tell you something. My own parents took more than two years after their only son told them that he's gay to come around to accepting it. It took a lot of struggle, a lot of talking (and sometimes, not talking), a lot of pain (I'm sure on the part of them as well as myself), for them to come to accepting a basic being of their own son. I know it takes courage. Should it? Probably not, but it does. It takes courage to accept oneself. It takes courage to rise above one's own dogma even to accept one's own child. And it takes courage for the president to stand behind us.
The president has completed his journey. He is where we have wanted him to be. He supports marriage equality. He supports us whole-heartedly. Now it's our turn. It's our turn to support him. It's our turn to prove that we will stand up for him and we will fight for him just like he has stood up and fought for us. It's our turn to be the footsoldiers in the fight for a fairer America with this president at the helm.