WEDNESDAY, May 9 — “Wow” was Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope’s reaction. Swope hadn’t yet heard the news of President Barack Obama’s interview on ABC News in which he said he now supports same-sex marriage.
“It’s great the way our nation is moving,” he said. “It’s definitely a positive move.”
Swope, Ingham County’s first openly gay elected official, and his husband, Bradly Rakowski, are approaching their eight-year anniversary. The two exercised their best option at the time, which was to go to Windsor, Ontario, after Canada legalized same-sex marriage. A few months later, in November 2004, Michigan voters outlawed same-sex marriage.
There were hints that Obama was moving in the direction of changing his opinion on the issue, Swope said. The president has traditionally only supported civil unions for same-sex couples. Swope hopes that because Obama is “well-liked and respected” that other people may follow suit.
The American people are already “way ahead of politicians in Lansing and Washington,” said Zack Pohl, executive director of Progress Michigan in an email.
“It was refreshing to finally hear the President of the United States affirm his support for gay marriage,” he wrote. “Change doesn't happen overnight, but hopefully President Obama's leadership on this issue will set a new tone in Washington, and move our nation towards equal rights for all citizens."
To have a person at such a high level of authority come on your side creates an “affirming” and “emotional” impact for students, said Deanna Hurlbert, assistant director of the LGBT Resource Center at Michigan State University.
However, LGBT students experience a tremendous amount of stress when their identity is bantered about as a political tool, she said, and this will continue until an actual law is put in place.
Calling the announcement “a thrilling and historical leap toward equality” in an email, Emily Dievendorf, policy director at Equality Michigan, an LGBT advocacy group, wrote that this hopefully is a signal that Obama wants to continue to push the issue on a national front.