I was as happy as anyone else last night about the big victory. I danced in the middle of Valencia street in San Francisco, surrounded by crazy hipsters, college kids, baby boomers, 12 year olds and more of us freaks out here feeling for the first time in our lives like we didn't feel on an island that was separate from the rest of the country. But I woke this morning to the painful feeling that I was celebrating at the wake of some of my closest friends.
I just got married last month, and my wife's father is gay. It was a very happy day, and though we were married in Oregon, we got our final marriage certificate in California because so many of our friends had to be married here. It felt more legitimate that way. On Sunday I spent a wonderful day with two great friends who had gotten married the day before us, finally able to after 14 years of being together. We were all nervous and hopeful and scared, but the main thing I remember is how brightly the two of them glowed. Even together 14 years, they couldn't stop talking about how getting married was "different". And then they'd smile at each other. I felt at times my heart would burst.
And now today they have been put on that island the rest of us San Franciscans used to be on. And they're more alone. No one is taking away my new marriage license because of this election. So I can celebrate. But I am ashamed. I'm ashamed I didn't do enough to stop this, but also ashamed that Obama didn't take clearer moral leadership on this issue. The now-standard Democratic position of "I support civil unions and gay rights but not gay marriage" is both immoral and corruptible. Many people complained that the Prop 8 crowd made it seem like Obama was for the proposition, when in fact he was against it. But they were absolutely right to quote him saying that he doesn't support gay marriage. Nobody gives a shit about the intricacies of constitutional law. Most people want moral leadership from our leaders. Saying you don't support gay marriage but support civil unions is a moral dead end. You can't tell me that the same African American voters (the only demographic group that I know of that did both) who voted both overwhelmingly for Obama and Prop 8 would not have thought twice if Obama had said "Marriage is a right for everyone".
I'm not stupid, I know that saying that probably would have cost him the election. But he talks a lot about the long arc history bending toward justice. Now is his chance to get on that arc help guide it home. If he's going to talk the moral leadership talk, my friend and her wife will need him to walk the walk as well. Our only future is love.