What Obama's support actually means for the queer community

What Obama's support actually means for the queer community

At the outset? Not too much.

Don't you hate it when a friend starts acting overly nice to you only to ask to borrow your money ten minutes later? Like kindness and companionship were commodities to be bought? Don't you hate it when someone who unflinchingly calls you and millions of other people “friend” says something nice to you, then uses it as an excuse to beg for monetary support?

Like most Americans on the queer side of things, I squeed with delight when I saw that President Barack Obama had publicly endorsed marriage equality. I even blogged that picture of the president riding a unicorn with rainbow lasers firing out of his fists. I was that excited. But my rush was soon dampened when just hours later, I got an email from Barack himself (he texts me and emails me all the time, we're bros) entitled “Marriage”. Inside wasn't a promise to introduce federal legislation expanding the definition of marriage to a legal union any two consenting adults who damn well want to get married. It wasn't even really a followup declaration of support for the queer community of the United States. It was a straight-up fundraiser—and given all my initial euphoria, it kind of stung.

It stung because I felt like the human rights struggle most pertinent to my personal life was suddenly turned into a pawn in the larger political game. Like Barack Obama didn't even think twice about taking my struggle to be seen as a full human being in the eyes of the law and using it to ask me for money. It would be one thing if he were raising funds for an actual plan to legalize gay marriage, but no such plan emerged. Obama still thinks the issue of marriage equality should be decided by the states. States like North Carolina, whose poll booths are more than half full of frothing bigots, who decided to keep it illegal. He personally believes in marriage equality—he just doesn't politically believe in doing anything to help make it a reality.

It's still pretty awesome, at least in theory, that we have a president that thinks gays are people, too. Obama's announcement was a big symbolic gesture and a firm indicator that gay-fearing Republicans are on the wrong side of history. But it smarts when such a vote of support is used to gather campaign funds so quickly—like it was planned, like Obama believes that such a ploy is precisely what he needs to reclaim the more disillusioned progressive voters. It was a decisive move, to be sure, but I fear it's also a cheap political one.