Here, I mean to point out that while Barack Obama and Colin Powell’s gay rights “evolution” is certainly welcome by many LGBTQ and their political allies, including myself, their expressed motivations are a bit silly. Obama:
…Over the course of—several years, as I talk to friends and family and neighbors. When I think about—members of my own staff who are incredibly committed, in monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together. When I think about—those soldiers or airmen or marines or—sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf—and yet, feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is gone, because—they’re not able to—commit themselves in a marriage.
At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that—for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that—I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.
Friends and family and neighbors. When I think about. For me personally.
That’s touching, though maybe somewhat feigned to dodge acknowledgement of the political considerations that prohibited the president’s public support for equal marriage rights in earlier years.
In any case, we’re talking about marriage, so we’re talking about a civil right and a matter of civil law. It’s a bit unnerving, then, to realize that political leaders and policymakers’ conception of “rights” is so linked to whether said figures have friends or family or neighbors who happen to be both disenfranchised and appealing or empathetic in some way.
It’s a lowbrow thought, that the president has welcomed a sufficient quota of gay and lesbian couples into his life to warrant his support of equal marriage rights. Obama isn’t a lowbrow man, so I rather suspect that I’m being misled. As a man who is not currently the president of the U.S., I’m not typically required to be so shrewd. So fair enough.
Of course, “evolution”—either the evolution of intellect or the evolution of self-interest—is to be encouraged, and in this case it’s a cheerful development. But a republic is better than a defense of rights inspired by making puppy dog eyes at the president. And there is a point at which one’s own “evolution” is moot, because rights trump sentiments.