The Defense of Marriage Act, which said for federal purposes marriages would only be recognized if they occurred between one man and one woman, passed both houses of Congress by wide margins in 1996 and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Less than two decades later that law had not only been found to be unconstitutional by the courts, but the Supreme Court of the United States had established the legality of same-sex marriages. All of that in less than twenty years.
When Barack Obama first ran for President in 2008, the rights of same-sex couples was not at the top of his campaign list - far from it. Back in 2008 states were still busy passing bills that specifically and adamantly denied the right of gay couples to marry - measures that were guaranteed to bring conservatives to the polls. The wind was still blowing the other way.
But something happened during the Obama presidency. The winds on that particular issue began to shift, and once that occurred changes that many believed would never come began happening quickly. Whether Barack Obama had intended to be the President who ushered in a new era for gay Americans or not didn't really matter. He was in the White House and he was open-minded. As the country's mood on gay rights began shifting, Obama met those changes with warmth, acceptance, and his big toothy grin. No longer was there hatred and bigotry emanating from the White House over a social issue. The times were changing fast, and there was a person heading our government who was not afraid to reach out and grab those changes on behalf of an evolving nation.
One of the most vivid and enduring images of the Obama presidency was that night-time photo of the White House bathed in rainbow colors - a move that celebrated the Supreme Court's recognition of the right of same sex couples to marry. By lighting up the White House like a gay pride flag, President Obama told the world that he and his administration stood proudly with America's LGBTQ community. Then, a few weeks ago when he declared the Stonewall Inn to be a national monument, the President added an exclamation point to his support of gay rights.
And now the presumptive Democratic nominee for President - the wife of the President who signed the Defense of Marriage Act twenty years ago - has shed the shackles of bigotry and marched in New York City's Gay Pride Parade. And now Canada's young and dynamic Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has rolled up his shirt sleeves and marched, quite boisterously, in Toronto's Pride Parade. And now people are free to marry the person they love - even in social backwaters like Kentucky.
The times are changing, and much of the change on gay issues has come about because we no longer had a hater in the White House ready and eager to cheer on every backward proposal put forth by the states. Barack Obama oversaw this important social transition in America - whether he intended to or not, and his smiling acceptance of those changes opened doors that will remain open as long as freedom and liberty reign in America..
Last week while he was in Ottawa, Canada, for what the press has dubbed the "Three Amigos" summit (Obama of the U.S., Pena Nieto of Mexico, and Trudeau of Canada), President Obama was invited to address the Canadian Parliament. He looked genuinely surprised (and more than a little pleased) when most of the members of Parliament stood and began chanting "Four more years, four more years!"
Compare that spontaneous outburst of joyfulness to the time, less than a decade ago, when his predecessor, George W. Bush, was addressing a gathering of Iraqi journalists and a reporter began hurling shoes at him!
America is enjoying the warm light of a new day - and we have Barack Obama to thank for it. The Canadian Parliament, it would seem, speaks for many of us!