Politicising homosexuality: A make or break for US presidents

In 2012, President Barack Obama is the first ever president in office to come out in support of gay marriage.

Manal Shakir May 24, 2012
The president of the United States, dispelled all doubt his democratic supporters or republican opposition had earlier this month when he spoke in support of gay marriage in a televised interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News


The announcement comes at a sensitive time as this is election year and gay rights, union, and marriage have always been a sensitive political subject for those on the Hill and all citizens of the United States.

Although the first amendment of the American Constitution’s Bill of Rights includes the freedom of association, laws for and against same-sex unions have always attempted to shift the legality of gay marriage in the United States.

This issue brings to the forefront the hypocrisy of specific laws in the United States. While the Bill of Rights may outline the flexibility of living in the country - such as freedom of religion, speech, expression, association and so on - the laws banning the union and/or marriage of same-sex couples violates that “flexibility”.

The United States is a country that has strong foundations condemning religious persecution. It is home to many citizens who initially fled their homelands where they may have faced that same persecution, or racial, gender, or ethnic persecution. Thus, the laws that exist should recognise the right of a person to marry another person of his/her choice - and it should be exactly that, his/her choice.

It’s like when someone criticises a culture for believing in arranged marriages, but then doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage. Is it not, in a way, a type of “arranged marriage” when one makes same-sex marriage illegal? It is an attempt at forcing someone to only have the option of marrying a person of the opposite sex. A stretch, I know, but an attempt at contextualising the problem.

The struggle of gay union and gay rights has always been a strong issue in the United States. Even for President Obama who decided to show support for gay union back in 2008 when he ran for office the first time, but fell short of being in support of gay marriage. It apparently is all about semantics.

However, in 2012, President Barack Obama is the first ever president in office to come out in support of gay marriage. For the 21st century, for the supporters of freedom of association and for the people of the United States who believe in an individual’s choice, this is a victory. And to add to President Obama’s support are the American public. In a poll conducted by Langer Research Association for ABC, the group found that 53% of Americans were in favor of legalising gay marriage while 39% were strongly opposed to the idea.

Sceptics have criticised the president’s timing, some saying that he is vying for more votes right before election time and others saying that his announcement is too late to make any real different in the election. Whether or not this is true is irrelevant. However, what is true is that the legality of gay union is still up to individual states, not the federal government. A day prior to the president’s announcement, the state of North Carolina banned same-sex marriage. And to this day, only six states allow same-sex marriage, including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

While gay rights and union will be a constant uphill battle in America, President Obama’s announcement is a step in the right direction.

Read more by Manal here or Follow her on Twitter @ManalShakir1
Manal Shakir A freelance journalist in Chicago, IL who tweets @ManalShakir1
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Lalita Haider | 12 years ago | Reply Even though Pakistan is behind in recognizing Gays & Lesbians the rights for transgenders is ahead in Pakistan than most Asian countries this is a surprising wave change in the Government, the Legal system. There will always be some naysayers who are ready to be judge and jury the fact that this topic is getting so much attention is an indication that gays & lesbians in Pakistan in the near future will struggle but achieve equal rights. If we look at the civil rights in America the majority who were against it were of the religious persuasion quoting various passages to support their view. But it was the wiser element of the American public who saw the wrong treatment to black Americans in the same way the younger Pakistanis will be the breaking factor to bring chance as human rights in Pakistan will also improve and in the future you will have gay rights.
Katarina | 12 years ago | Reply @Ayesha Pervez: Homosexual people have unfortunately live a much harder life than heterosexuals and that is why of course there is a higher proportion of eg depression. Regarding HIV I have understood that in the beginning of the epidemy it was more common among homosexuals but now especially sex workers and drug users are the groups where it is most common. And then in certain African countries like Uganda. Hit has nothing to do with homosexuality but with practices (unprotected sex, lot of relationships such as with sexual workers). My daughter is lesbian and I admit that it was hard in the beginning to accept that. But after a lot of thinking I came to the conclusion that the important thing is that she is happy. Who am I to judge her? In our country we had now a presidential race and one of the candidates were gay. He is living with his spouse in a registered partnerhsip (here it is still forbidden to get married but you can register your partnership). So what if we would have had as a "first lady" a guy? He lost the race but because of other reasons but I was delighted to see that our country is now mature enough for gay relationships. I know that human rights in Pakistan will also improve and in the future you will have gay marriages.
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