Andrew Sullivan's NewsBeast cover story calls Obama the first gay president and talks about attending a Spring 2007 "private fundraiser in a tony apartment in Georgetown" where Obama equivocated on marriage equality with "I think civil unions are the way to go. As long as they are equal." Sullivan was disappointed with this "excruciating nonposition:"
I didn't believe it. I thought he was struggling between political calculation and his core belief in civil rights. And it was then that I realized he was both: a cold, steely, ruthless, calculating politician who nonetheless wanted to do the right thing in the end.
In the runup to last week's announcement, Sullivan writes that "I braced myself for disappointment. And yet when I watched the interview, the tears came flooding down:"
I was utterly unprepared for how psychologically transformative the moment would be. To have the president of the United States affirm my humanity--and the humanity of all gay Americans--was, unexpectedly, a watershed. He shifted the mainstream in one interview. And last week, a range of Democratic leaders--from Harry Reid to Steny Hoyer--backed the president, who moved an entire party behind a position that only a few years ago was regarded as simply preposterous. And in response, Mitt Romney could only stutter.
He disagrees with the cynics who call Obama's statement of principle "pure and late opportunism:"
...when you step back a little and assess the record of Obama on gay rights, you see, in fact, that this was not an aberration. It was an inevitable culmination of three years of work. He did this the way he always does: leading from behind and playing the long game. [...] This, by any measure, is an astonishing pace of change in one presidential term. In four years Obama went from being JFK on civil rights to being LBJ: from giving uplifting speeches to acting in ways to make the inspiring words a reality.
The caption is a superficial way to characterize an important development of thought that the president -- along with the country -- has been making over recent years. It is also entirely wrong. [...] There can be no doubt that James Buchanan was gay, before, during, and after his four years in the White House. Moreover, the nation knew it, too -- he was not far into the closet.
Michelangelo Signorile notes that "For almost four years the president, for political reasons, didn't say he was for marriage equality:"
Then, after being pressured by gays, and after many in his own administration couldn't hold back their own support for marriage equality, the president announced his support in the midst of an election campaign.
The president still qualifies his support, arguing that marriage is a state issue rather than a federal right...the president still hasn't signed the executive order that would give LGBT people who work for federal contractors protections from employment discrimination.
"Let's give the president immense credit for coming out for marriage equality," writes Signorile, but "let's leave the 'gay president' label to those of the past who actually may be shown to have been homosexual...like James Buchanan and--in a fact especially horrifying to Republicans--Abraham Lincoln.