05/17/2012 09:38 am ET Updated Jul 17, 2012

Finally, Mr. President

President Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage is a watershed moment

Ever since President Obama first rose to national prominence, his tepid advocacy for gay rights and avowed -- if unconvincing -- opposition to gay marriage stood as a monument to the evils of political posturing. Here was a candidate who appeared to share the same liberal social and cultural values as the young voters he so effortlessly enraptured. His own struggle with identity and deliberately cosmopolitan outlook seemed to suggest a man whose vision was unclouded by the baseless, putatively religious aversion to homosexuality that still informed the views of so many politicians. All this, in addition to the president's 1996 statement in support of same-sex marriage, made his supposed opposition to marriage equality seem perplexing at best and deliberately deceptive at worst.

It seemed clear enough that President Obama was obfuscating his position in order to hold together a fragile political coalition that included important groups who have never shared young voters' support for gay rights. It was realpolitik, and it was a bitter pill to swallow -- but we swallowed it.

Last week, however, everything changed. On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden -- either getting "over his skis," or deliberately testing the water for the administration -- broke with official policy and endorsed gay marriage. The next day, Secretary of Education Arne S. Duncan '86 came out in favor of marriage equality. Then, on Tuesday, North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages as well as civil unions. Suddenly, President Obama's dissimulation on marriage equality seemed both absurd and harmful. No doubt knowing he could delay the issue no longer, President Obama arranged an interview on ABC in which he affirmed his support for same-sex marriage.

Although it is terribly unfortunate that the president ever chose to feign opposition to marriage equality, it is nevertheless extremely heartening that, as of last Wednesday, the president of the United States of America, for the first time in history, supports true equality for gay Americans. This also provides voters with a starker choice in November's election, considering that Mitt Romney has reaffirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage and allegedly bullied a classmate, whom he suspected of being gay, in high school.

Despite occasional setbacks like what occurred in North Carolina on Tuesday, it is clear that the direction of cultural shift is toward marriage equality in America. The most recent Gallup poll on the subject shows that 70 percent of 18-34 year-olds think gay marriage should be legal, while 53 percent of 35-54 year olds support marriage equality as well. These numbers are growing and ought to give hope and comfort to all those who care about equality for all. Now that we have a president who supports marriage equality, it is just a matter of time before the winds of change overcome the inertia of baseless stigma and irrational hatred.