When a member of the president's staff said that his view on gay marriage had "evolved" and when the president explained this evolution during an interview, I felt a peak moment of empathy. Gay marriage is such a complex issue and I completely understand the idea of having evolving opinions regarding it. I also felt an empathy with the president since many of our steps in this evolution as well as our current views are very similar.
When I first became old enough to understand the idea of two men or two women getting married, I wholeheartedly supported the idea and didn't see why anyone would be opposed to it or would even suggest an alternative. It seemed to me that those who opposed gay marriage simply felt uncomfortable with the thought of gay people sharing their rights and I saw this as an insufficient reason. However, as I left my high school where nearly half of the males were gay, I met more and more people who had gay friends and were comfortable with gay people but still opposed gay marriage. They said that marriage was a religious invention and that churches had a sort of ownership of the idea of marriage. Thus, they explained that it was acceptable to exclude gay people because religious institutions invented the idea of marriage for a man and a woman. I had trouble with this notion since marriage served as a cultural/societal method of transferring property long before it had any religious significance but I understood that these people wanted to preserve their religion as it was, faults and all.
At this point, I thought, "Why not invent a legal union that offered the same rights as marriage and just not call it marriage?" I believed this would offer a valid compromise. However, the idea was too optimistic and would be incredibly difficult to implement at a federal or even a state level. I also found that many people who are opposed to gay marriage reject the idea of a legal alternative to marriage even though it would not infringe on their right to marry. These discoveries brought me to my current suspicion that the argument of protecting marriage in order to preserve tradition is often a front for simple discomfort and/or entitlement. A heterosexual acquaintance of mine recently said, "What will we have left?" when confronted with the idea of gay people being able to marry in all states. This question disturbed me. It seems to imply that gay marriage would destroy the last bastion of superiority that heterosexuals enjoy and that homosexual equality would come at our expense.
Gay marriage will certainly not mar our history the way segregation did. However, both issues represent struggles to make progress in our country. Obama resonated most with me when he mentioned that his daughters could not understand that their friends' gay parents were not able to marry the way men and women could. I do not have children now but when they grow up I want them to look back on the idea of gay people not being able to marry as ridiculous the same way that our generation sees segregation as a wound in our culture that is healing over time. While segregation presented a much greater inequality, I believe that gay marriage will similarly become a non-issue over time. Progress will happen and those who are uncomfortable with gay people getting married will have to learn to get over their prejudice. If those opposed to gay marriage cannot overcome their discomfort, they will simply fade away with time until they are no longer a hindrance on the pursuit of equality.