One year ago today, President Obama finally allowed his words to match his deeds when it came to same-sex marriage.
After more than a couple of years saying that his views on marriage equality were “evolving,” he told ABC News’s Robin Roberts, “At a certain point, I just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think that same-sex couples should be able to get married.” With those simple words, the president kicked off a remarkable year in gay history.
May 15, 2012: A Washington Post-ABC News poll done after the president’s declaration showed 54 percent of African Americans supported his decision.
May 19, 2012: Ten days later, the NAACP, the nation’s storied African American civil rights organization, voted overwhelmingly to support same-sex marriage.
Oct. 3, 11, 16 and 22, 2012: Gay rights issues don’t come up at any of the presidential or vice presidential debates. After years of gay men and lesbians being used in bigoted ways as wedges in American politics by Democrats and Republicans, the silence is a blessed relief.
Nov. 6, 2012: Obama becomes the highest-ranking supporter of marriage equality to win reelection.
Nov. 6, 2012: Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington State affirmatively approve marriage equality. This is the first time the issue won voter approval at the ballot box.
February 27: The New York Times reports that a roster of prominent Republicans signed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court calling for overturning Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. More than 100 GOPers have signed on.
March 15: Sen. Rob Portman became the first sitting U.S. Senate Republican to come out for marriage equality.
March 18: A “GOP autopsy” acknowledged the “generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.”
March 18: Support for same-sex marriage reaches 58 percent, an all-time high for the Washington Post-ABC News poll.
March 26 – 27: Supreme Court hears arguments in the Prop 8 case and another case to overturn the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
March 27: NBC News anchor and correspondent Jenna Wolfe came out on the Today Show, announced she was pregnant and that she and fellow NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk were getting married — and there was not a ripple of controversy.
Week of April 1: After the Supreme Court arguments, there was a gay-marriage parade in the Senate among Democrats and Illinois Republican Mark Kirk. Now, a majority of the U.S. Senate supports marriage equality.
April 29: NBA center Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. Sixty years and two days after President Eisenhower’s “Lavender Scare,” Obama called Collins to lend his support and to tell Collins that he was “impressed by his courage.”
May 2: Rhode Island became the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
May 7: Delaware became the 11th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
On May 14, 2012, Newsweek dubbed Obama “The First Gay President” because of his stance on marriage equality and other gay rights issues. That seemed about right to me then, and it still does today. What the president did was historic. And it showed how the voice of one person can change hearts and minds in many. I’m almost certain I have forgotten some events from the list above. But with Illinois and Minnesota close to legalizing same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court decisions in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases due in June, there’s bound to be more good news.
Follow Jonathan Capehart on Twitter.