Iowa State weighs in on Obama’s stance on gay rights


Photo: Kelsey Kremer/Iowa State Daily

President Barack Obama speaks to a crowd of 5,500 people — according to a University of Iowa official — Wednesday, April 25, at the Field House in Iowa City. Obama gave remarks about student debt. 

Thaddeus Mast

Recently, President Barack Obama stated that he personally supports marriage for same sex couples, saying “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.”

As he is the first president to endorse marriage equality, the impact of the event is large and affects more people than just the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.

Brad Freihoefer, coordinator of Iowa State’s LGBT Student Services, shared his opinion.

“[Obama’s endorsement] does have an impact on straight and gender conforming people,” Freihoefer said.  “It’s an incredible support for all families. That visibility and support is huge.”

While Obama said he did support marriage of same sex couples, he appeared to have been pushed into the endorsement before he wanted. Vice President Joe Biden spoke of his support on May 6 in what political science professor Mack Shelley described as a famous “Biden slip.”

The next day Education Secretary Arne Duncan showed his support for marriage equality.

Shelley believed this pushed the issue for Obama. Whether forced or not, the statement has a large effect on the community, as well as the country.

Warren Blumenfeld, multicultural & international curriculum studies professor, explained how Obama’s views have changed over the years.

“He said that his wife and kids really helped him evolve on the issue. His daughters couldn’t understand why their friend’s two moms couldn’t have the same rights as a mother and a father and he couldn’t tell them a reason why. He looks through his civil rights lens and he says of course marriage need to be given to people with different sexual preferences.”

Freihoefer said it was interesting to see how Obama came to this point. 

“Sometime we see the president as some person on a pedestal, but we never see the path of how he got there,” Freihoefer said. “What’s so neat about [his endorsement] is that the president was so vulnerable on his path to get to this point.”

Blumenfeld continued on, saying that while Obama’s endorsement is huge, the entire case of marriage equality is soon to be put on trial.

“There is a case that is on its way to the Supreme Court and hopefully we will see a Supreme Court hearing striking down these 31 state amendments saying marriage is between a man and a woman,” Blumenfeld said. “We cannot do this state by state. This violates the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.”

The Equal Protection Clause in this Amendment required each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people.

This will all stem from California’s Proposition 8, which banned marriage of same sex couples in a popular vote. The California Supreme Court overturned the vote, and it is now heading towards the Supreme Court.

“Civil rights should not be up for popular vote,” Blumenfeld said. “If we would have held a vote to eliminate slavery, we would most likely still have slavery.”

Blumenfeld also pointed out which group has an issue with marriage equality.

“70 percent of people under 30 don’t have a problem with it. For young people, it is not an issue,” he said. 

Both Blumenfeld and Shelley agreed that the Democratic Party will take an official stance on marriage for same sex couples.

“It’s an exciting and wonderful time,” Freihoefer said, summing up his feelings.