In a state of shared disbelief, this nation learned that the leader of the free world had publicly announced his full support for the signature civil rights issue of our time: full recognition of the freedom to marry for all Americans, gay and straight alike. As the son of a same-sex couple from Iowa, and one of the first children born to an openly lesbian parent in the Midwest, it is with a sense of awestruck bewilderment that I realize I am now represented by a sitting U.S. president who publicly supports the marriage shared by my two moms, Jackie and Terry.
Nevertheless, critics on both the left and the right have been quick to point out that nothing has actually changed in a political sense: The so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) remains law, the president's statement does not change the outcome of Tuesday's vote in North Carolina, and President Obama still refuses to issue the much-heralded nondiscrimination executive order.
But it's difficult for me to believe that nothing has actually changed. Many people had the sense, especially given Mr. Obama's seeming support for same-sex marriage in the '90s, that the president may have been playing politics with his stance on marriage equality in an attempt to appease socially moderate Democrats. Today, though, the game, if there was one at all, is over. Regardless of the authenticity or posturing of his oft-discussed "evolution," the fact remains that for the first time in history, this country's moral leader supports full equality under the law for same-sex couples.
The legacy of America's shining city -- that last, great bastion of freedom -- lives on.
I've never before known a time in my life when the man in the Oval Office openly supported the union my moms share. Though it may not seem like much to somebody for whom the legitimacy of his or her relationship has been taken for granted, the change feels real to me, particularly given the now-stark juxtaposition between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney.
Indeed, it was on the first day of September 2004, as I watched the Republican National Convention for my eighth grade Media Workshop class, that I furiously scribbled down on paper Mr. Romney's remark that "because every child deserves a mother and a father, we step forward by recognizing that marriage is between a man and a woman." I took particular note of his word choice, "deserves," his implicit assertion that my two-mom family was somehow inferior to his own mom-and-dad upbringing. Though this was not the time I first became aware that some people opposed my family structure, this was the first time I had ever witnessed the use of children like me as political, rhetorical weapons wielded against my parents.
It was a defining moment and is one that, nearly a decade later, lingers in my memory with startling clarity. Is there more work to do? Yes. Is President Obama's reelection assured? No. Perhaps it's a foolish sentiment buoyed by an impending Mother's Day -- or, in my case, Mothers' Day -- but I can't shake the feeling that it just got a little better.
It is with a happy heart and rekindled optimism that I wish President Obama the best of luck with his reelection campaign in the fall, and the First Lady a happy Mother's Day. I am looking forward to helping the president advance, secure, and protect full equality under the law for families like mine all across the country.
Hope and change, indeed.
(And Happy Mothers' Day!)
Follow Zach Wahls on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ZachWahls