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The Times
  • Editorial: Liberty and justice for all would be a priceless Mother's Day gift

  • When President Barack Obama voiced his support last week for the right of same-sex couples to marry, it had a very different feel than most presidential announcements — particularly one of such historic significance.

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  • When President Barack Obama voiced his support last week for the right of same-sex couples to marry, it had a very different feel than most presidential announcements — particularly one of such historic significance.
    The message was not delivered from the Oval Office in the form of a presidential address. It lacked the typical political stagecraft and fanfare. The White House press corps was not invited.
    Instead, President Obama sat in a chair in the White House cabinet room in a one-on-one interview with ABC News’ Robin Rogers, where he calmly spoke in deeply personal terms about how his one-time opposition of same-sex marriage came to “evolve” into his support for marriage equality today. “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,” Obama plainly stated.
    While Obama is the first president of the United States to declare his support for same-sex marriage, the president made clear that he was addressing the issue on a personal level. “Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples,” Obama said, referring to his daughters.
    “It wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and, frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective,” he said.
    And perhaps that was the best way for the president to address this hot-button social issue on which our nation remains deeply divided: As a husband and father, like many, whose views have evolved over time. Granted, civil rights –– including marriage rights — represent significant state and federal public policy issues with a wide array of implications.
    Some rightfully point out that Obama’s televised remarks — delivered on the heels of a vote in North Carolina that made it the 31st state to amend its constitution to define marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman — do little to change the legal status of same-sex couples on a federal or state level.
    In fact, the president stopped short of calling for a repeal of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act –– which the commonwealth of Massachusetts (which has allowed same-sex marriage since 2004) is challenging on constitutional grounds under the equal protection clause. The president made clear his belief that the decision about same-sex marriage should be left to the states.
    However, shortly after the president declared his support for same-sex marriage, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. — long a supporter of DOMA — announced that he, too, had a change of heart, and would be co-sponsoring the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA and extend the more than 1,000 federal marriage benefits offered to heterosexual couples to same-sex couples married in states which allow such unions.
    Page 2 of 2 - Politics and policy aside, though, it seems appropriate — especially on Mother’s Day – to look at the issue in the manner the president did: on a personal level, as a family would. After all, matters of the heart –– family, faith, love and marriage — are, at their core, deeply personal issues. The lesson of acceptance may be found through the love of family. A mothers’ love — a parents’ love — should be unconditional.
    Loving parents want the opportunity for their children to have the same rights afforded to any other American. That’s why marriage equality has found some unlikely allies in prominent Republicans, like former First Lady Laura Bush, a mother who has become a strong advocate for marriage equality. Even former Vice President Dick Cheney — whose daughter is gay — has embraced marriage equality.
    In a relatively short time, our nation has come a long way in accepting and recognizing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Americans, but we are very much still evolving. Sadly, every day, thousands of LGBT Americans are denied the same rights that other Americans are granted.
    Many faiths have difficulty reconciling long-held religious beliefs and traditions with civil law that changes the traditional definition of marriage. Others have decided that committed relationships — whether gay or straight — still represent a union that should be recognized by their faith community.
    As President Obama shared with the nation on Wednesday, he and First Lady Michelle Obama simply believe in practicing the Golden Rule.
    “We are both practicing Christians and, obviously, this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others,” the president said. “But, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule. You know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids, and that’s what motivates me as president.”
    On this Mother’s Day, consider how the Golden Rule — which so many mothers have taught their children through the years — might hold the key to extending acceptance and equal rights to others. Discuss the meaning of the Golden Rule with your own families and faith communities and how it applies to the same-sex marriage debate.
    Just as a mother’s love and acceptance of her children should be unconditional, so, too, should our acceptance of equal rights for all fellow Americans. Perhaps, in the not-so-distant future, The United States of America can take yet another historic step toward truly making good on the pledge we Americans take and teach to our children: “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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