She started by acknowledging President's statement, earlier in the week, fin favor of legitimizing same-sex marriage. The congregation erupted in spontaneous, enthusiastic cheering. It was a surprising moment for me, surprising in the intensity and exuberance of the response to her remarks. I was caught up in the enthusiasm and have thought about it since. Is this particular congregation especially interested in gay rights? Well, yes, in that the Unitarian faith prides itself on accepting all people, from whatever religious, political or racial background, to its fold. And under former Pastor Forrest Church, All Souls became actively involved in gay rights here in New York City.
It's interesting that in conversations since Sunday, several people have commented on what they see as the gutsiness of Obama's pronouncement in light of the political risk his statement holds in the coming election. An equal number of people have commented on what they see as the johnny-come-lately, very ungutsy nature of President Obama's statement, saying he was forced into making it by Vice President Biden's strong statement only days before, approving of same-sex marriage on prime time television.
What all the people with whom I've talked agree on is that we really don't know what impact this will have on voting preferences come November. Perhaps it will be blown over by then, replaced by other big issues. Like the economy, Stupid! Or perhaps it will become an even bigger topic of conversation, since it conflicts with many people's strongly held religious beliefs.
Or maybe, just maybe, it will lead to a more public discussion of just what kind of Nation we want America to be. As Michael Bloomberg approvingly said when he got the news of Obama's comment, there has never been a personal rights issue on which a President has taken a public stance that did not, eventually, turn that stance into legislation.
Let's hope that's the case. I for one would like us to move beyond the unfairness inherent in denying people the right to marry whom they choose. We need all the great parents out there we can get. And in the gay families I know, the children are model citizens. Can't say that for many of the heterosexually parented families I know. How about you?
And as for Bristol Palin's take on things--saying that rather than use his daughters as a sounding board on the issue of same-sex marriage, President Obama should have told them that every child needs to be raised in a family with a mother and father--I thought again of how easy it is in this age of ubiquitous media. For even the misguided and foolish to gather an audience. Let's hope that kind of thinking doesn't drive the conversation going forward.