Yesterday was Mother’s Day, but we just experienced the mother of all weekends. So many firsts and great things happened between Friday and Saturday that I needed yesterday to make sense of it all. After brunch with Mom, of course.
History was made late Saturday afternoon when the St. Louis Rams football team drafted Michael Sam. By bringing the University of Missouri all-American defensive player onto its team, the Rams brought Sam one step closer to becoming the first openly gay man to play professional football. The kiss he shared with boyfriend Vito Cammisano, shown on ESPN, was also a historic moment. And I was thrilled to see that Sam had someone special with whom to share his big day.
Getting drafted was just the beginning for Sam. Now he has to make the team roster for the next season. “I don’t know if Sam will make the Rams roster. But I know he’s game to give it his best shot. I can only hope that the Rams do the right thing and only keep him if he makes the team better. This isn’t a charity,” Super Bowl champion Brendon Ayanbadejo told me yesterday. “On that same token I would also hope they don’t cut him because of who he is and I don’t think that they will or even would. I think he will have a fair chance to show and [prove] that he makes the Rams a better football organization on and off the field.”
History was made in the Bible Belt on Friday when Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza in Arkansas ruled unconstitutional that state’s bans on same-sex marriage instituted by constitutional amendment in 2004 and state law in 1997. Because he didn’t stay his ruling pending appeal, Jennifer Rambo and Kristin Seaton became the first same-sex couple to marry in the Old Confederacy on Saturday.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced his personal support for marriage equality earlier this month. But he also said he would continue to defend the gay marriage ban in court. Late Saturday, McDaniel announced he would appeal the Piazza ruling. Until he actually files that appeal, more same-sex couples could marry. “Are these people married? Are they unmarried?” asked the head of the Arkansas Family Council. “Judge Piazza did a tremendous disservice to the people of Arkansas by leaving this in limbo.”
It’s true, Piazza left things in limbo. But as I explained when the same thing happened in Utah in January, this isn’t exactly a bad thing. The two classes of same-sex couples in Arkansas — those married and those who want to marry but can’t if the Piazza ruling is stayed or overturned — will guarantee more lawsuits to get the Supreme Court to rule in favor of a constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry.
For the first time, a major national Republican split from his party on voter ID. “Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Jeremy W. Peters of the New York Times on Friday. “I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.” Peters went further in characterizing Paul’s remarks by saying that the potential 2016 presidential candidate said “the focus on such measures alienates and insults African Americans and hurts the party.”
Peters reports that Paul didn’t “denounce voter ID laws as bad policy or take back previous statements in which he had said it was not unreasonable for voters to be required to show identification at the polls.” He also reminds us of Paul’s troubled past on civil rights issues. There was also his disastrous trek to Howard University last year. But Paul is doing what the GOP autopsy urged the party to do but it has completely ignored. He’s going directly to African American audiences, and he’s moderating his tone and message. Paul isn’t going to win the black vote. But his continued actions will give blacks a reason to at least listen to what he has to say.
Two great things happened in television over the weekend. On Friday, Larry Wilmore, the comedian known as the “senior black correspondent” on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” will take over from Stephen Colbert when he takes over for David Letterman next year. The show will be called “The Minority Report With Larry Wilmore.” Having an African American lead a show on Comedy Central, succeeding someone as popular as Colbert in the prime 11:30 p.m. slot, is huge.
Then, on Saturday, Conchita Wurst of Austria won the kitschtastic and wildly popular Eurovision singing competition. Wurst — a.k.a. “the bearded lady” — overcame efforts to eject her from the competition to earn Austria’s first Eurovision title since 1966. “This is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom,” Wurst said upon being awarded the top trophy. “We are unity and we are unstoppable.”
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Each of these events is a newsworthy “wow!” moment on its own. That they all happened in a 48-hour period is more like “WOW!”
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj