When Obama fought for the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy from the time he assumed the presidency until it was officially lifted in September 2011, he took many political risks. It took courage and he did the right thing.
When Obama made the decision one year ago to go after Osama bin Laden, he took tremendous risks. If anything had gone wrong, if the daring mission had failed, he could pretty much kiss his re-election chances goodbye. It took courage, and he did the right thing.
When Obama declared on Wednesday that he supports same-sex marriage, he once again made a decision that comes with tremendous political risk. It could very well cost him his re-election. But once again, it took courage and he did the right thing.
Explaining his decision to ABC's Robin Roberts, the president said:
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.
Mr. President, while I applaud you for your courageous and right decision, I have to point out that millions of Americans came to that "certain point" a very long time ago, and -- if the polls are right -- that a good majority of Americans have now come to that "certain point," too.
I personally haven't "just concluded" that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally.
I concluded this a very long time ago, when the most loved person in the world to my wife and myself, our young son, told us that he was gay.
As our son grew up, I concluded that he deserves all the rights that you and I enjoy, Mr. President.
As our son met another young man and began a relationship, I concluded that he ought to be able to marry his partner when and if he wished to do so.
At a certain point in our history, Americans concluded that slavery was abominable and abolished it.
Similarly, at other points in our history, Americans concluded that discrimination based on gender and race were wrong and unconstitutional and ended it.
I know it has taken you a long time to come to this conclusion, Mr. President, partially based of your dealings with friends and members of your staff who are in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships; partially from talking with your beautiful daughters and discovering that "it wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently"; partially from discussions with the First Lady about values and about treating people equally. But you also mention the Golden Rule and how in being true to those precepts the better you'll be as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better you'll be as president.
You will be better, Mr. President.
Take it from the father of a gay man -- a beautiful, loving, caring human being -- whose heart breaks to see his son being "treated differently."
Take it from the millions of gay men and lesbians in America, from their parents, their brothers and sisters, their friends, who have come to this point, to this conclusion, a long time ago.
Mr. President, by speaking out in support of marriage equality you will certainly face a tsunami of vicious attacks from many quarters, you might even lose the election in November.
However, just as history has vindicated and honored Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Lyndon B. Johnson and other presidents and leaders who faced similar excruciating, sometimes very unpopular decisions but did the right thing, history will look very kindly on the first sitting U.S. resident with the courage and the principles to take the right stand on one of the last vestiges of institutionalized hate, prejudice, discrimination and injustice in America.
Charles Blow puts it so well in his "Liberty and Justice for All," in today's New York Times:
History will remember this president in this moment. He stood up for personal liberty and publicly affirmed what should have needed no affirmation: that in a just society the rights of some must be the rights of all, that we do not condemn those who love differently, that we are all made greater when we are all treated equally.
Thank you, Mr. President.