Local LGBT leaders laud President Obama’s historic announcement in support of marriage equality — but say it should also be a call to action

KEEPING IT SIMPLE | Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, holds a homemade sign during the rally at the Legacy of Love Monument on Wednesday, May 9. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

ANNA WAUGH  |  Staff Writer

Dallas LGBT leaders and activists praised President Barack Obama’s in the days that followed his historic pronouncement, many highlighting the campaign benefits and political steps that could follow.

Obama went public in a TV interview with ABC News Wednesday, May 9, saying that he at one point thought civil unions were enough but that while he was “going through an evolution on this issue,” he had  “always been adamant” that gays and lesbians should be treated equally.

“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 said, making him the first president in office to take such a stance.

Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons said Obama “stands in stark contrast” to Bill Clinton who signed the Defense of Marriage Act. He noted that Obama is not afraid of the far right, carrying his views the day after North Carolina passed an amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions.

“President Obama, with a few short months before the election, has stood with this community and has demonstrated an integrity that we haven’t seen in the oval office since Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Right Act of 1964,” he said.

Fitzsimmons said he doesn’t think Obama’s decision will hurt Democrats in November, because those who care strongly about marriage equality have already made up their minds.

“It just builds this enthusiasm. He’s given us red meat and that’s what we want to see,” he said. “We’ve just got to stop being afraid of the theocrats.”

Omar Narvaez, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, called Wednesday “the biggest day in the modern day movement and the in modern day history.”

“Today is a day to remember,” Narvaez said.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, who organized a rally in Oak Lawn in Wednesday to protest North Carolina and to encourage

Obama to take a stand, said the event was part celebration and part demanding for more action to substantiate his support. Nearly 100 people attended the rally.

“I think those who are against us are going to use every stall tactic they have used against us. It’s not going to stop us,” Cates said about Amendment One.

Cates said he was “ecstatic that [Obama] has finally finished [his] evolution,” adding that the president “says he supports us and we’re going to make sure that he does.”

FROM PROTEST TO CELEBRATION | Wednesday’s rally on Cedar Springs was originally planned as a protest in reponse to the passage of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in North Carolina, but became more of a celebration following Obama’s announcement. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman echoed Cates sentiments, calling for more action in the Texas Legislature and continued support from those who promise it in an email May 10.

“I am very excited about the president making such a public announcement,” Coleman told Dallas Voice. “It’s a great time for us that the leader of the free world is not going to marginalize our families and that he is taking a pubic stand in support of all families including those that are LGBT.”

But while some like Cates and Coleman think the announcement was long overdue, others like Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable said the president had to take time to truly make up his mind.

“I think it’s a bold step for him to work toward our equality at the presidential level,” Anable said. “I think it’s a decision as president he had to make. It was due when he felt he could support it wholeheartedly and I think he’s at that position.”

Pioneering Dallas lesbian activist Louise Young said she “wondered if the day would ever come that a sitting president would make a statement in favor of same-sex marriage” before applauding the president for showing “a great deal of courage.”

Obama reportedly had intended to endorse same-sex marriage before November but decided to announce it before schedule due to Vice President Joe Biden’s comment on “Meet the Press” the Sunday before where he said he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage.

Plans were then made to push the announcement and a new campaign video targeting LGBT voters surfaced Thursday, featuring Obama and Romney’s

comments on equality to demonstrate how Obama is moving the country forward, according to the video.

Stonewall Democrats of Texas Vice President Erin Moore said that politically Obama was defending the LGBT community from bullies.

“My more generous side says he saw the outcome of the vote and decided this issue needed leadership,” Moore said. “Since his parents were interracial, he felt a connection with what happened with the vote.”

Before making his announcement, the White House called Houston Mayor Annise Parker. Parker was surprised by the announcement and didn’t think Obama would come out for marriage equality before the election. She tweeted her official reaction.

“Wow! I was wrong. Call from White House. The President has stepped up and stated his support for recognizing relationships…like mine!-a,” Parker wrote.

Political candidates also voiced their opinions for the news.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Sean Hubbard said he was excited for the announcement, adding that marriage “is not an issue that should be left to the states to discriminate as they please.”

Marc Veasey and Domingo Garcia, both Democratic candidates for the new Congressional District 33, also commented. Veasey said he it showed “strength and courage,” adding that even if it brings “political risk, he’s done the right thing for the right reasons.” Garcia said he was “honored the president said what many of us knew should be the law of the land.”

Criticism for Obama’s stance has mainly come from the conservative religious community, where leaders argue that Obama’s support for same-sex marriage goes against the Bible.

The Rev. Steve Sprinkle, the first openly gay professor at Brite Divinity School said Obama’s decision was  “an act of personal and political courage.”

Sprinkle expects a backlash from the right wing. He said that after the vote in for Amendment 2 in Texas that put marriage discrimination into the state

Constitution, his tires were slashed and apartment pelted with eggs.

“Those of us who love liberty need to have the president’s back,” Sprinkle said.

Lesbian Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez also realized that people would see the issue as a religious one, but she added, “I honestly don’t believe that God discriminates.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 11, 2012.