That’s right

NIMISHA JAISWAL

'Living history': Gay rights pioneer Lilli Vincenz (R), and her life partner Nancy Ruth Davis (Image from AP).

Mr. Obama sure does know how to evoke a reaction.

The US President’s statement on a televised interview, where he explicitly stated his support for gay marriage, succeeded in causing both an outcry and a celebration. Gay rights activists hailed the statement as a milestone, many celebrating their chance to witness ‘history’. The usual suspects denounced Obama’s words, and political disapproval was quick to the fore. Australian PM Julia Gillard remained politely ‘opposed’, and a Peruvian congresswoman reached the conclusion that the US President is a ‘philosophically confused man’. 

Whatever the kind of reaction, a reaction certainly was due. The US has been seen as a torch-bearer in most streams and issues, and the first time a US President publicly takes a stance on gay marriage is quite a reason to stop and take notice.

The proximity of the statement to the presidential elections, the grinding and sweating over planning the timing to the dot, the rush caused due to Biden’s words, and the prompt ‘Mitt Romney: Backwards on Equality’ video emitting from the Obama campaign centre is another story. So the man had an agenda. What matters is if the agenda was supported by a sincere admission, or a political ploy.

While gay rights activists have praised Obama ardently, they have also wished for a more pro-active stand, to promote the cause further. The significance of Obama’s words, and the potential significance of his actions, would bear great influence on the mobilisation of laws granting greater rights to the LGBT community. His statement has already obligated many to react with a stand, and those who ‘remain opposed’ have been brought back into the limelight for their anti-rights position.

The main trouble, however, lies with the thought processes. Several African countries still punish homosexuality with jail sentences, or even death. China turns a blind eye, and India is struggling. The ‘mental disorder’ or ‘disease’ theory is, unluckily, still not old. As an Egyptian engineer puts it, "God created Adam and Eve. He didn’t create two Adams or two Eves." Religion, of course, the answer to it all and the safest curtain to hide behind, also stands firm in making things difficult, and impeding the path to change.

Read more