Taking Heart and Umbrage at Obama's Stance on Same-Sex Marriage
Southland residents reacted Thursday—some positively, some negatively—to President Obama's public support for gay marriage. What do you think?
President Barack Obama's public backing of gay marriage met a mixed reaction Thursday in the south suburbs.
Obama said during a recent ABC news interview that he personally supports same-sex marriage, noting that he "already made a decision that we were going to take this position before the election and before the convention." In doing so, he became the first sitting president to publicly support the union.
"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 told ABC's Good Morning America.
Chicago Heights resident Zhenya Krassitchkova said the proclamation was like a "breath of fresh air for the gay community."
"It's obviously very exciting," said the 29-year-old. She entered into a civil union with her longtime girlfriend, Marina Bassett, almost one year ago when Illinois became the sixth state in the United States to issue licenses joining any two non-married adults.
"It's not just the president's reaction that's encouraging, it's many other reactions that have followed it," she said. "It's nice to see people who are so supportive."
Krassitchkova does note, however, that decisions relating to same-sex marriage should not be made at the state level as Obama suggests during the interview. Area political figures, including 1st Congressional District Rep. Bobby Rush, have voiced similar opinions on the issue. Rush didn't immediately return voice mail messages left Thursday but did address marriage equality in a Patch questionnaire leading up to March's primary election.
"Marriage is a matter for the individual states, and is not something in which the federal government should be allowed to legislate," he answered. "States should properly be left to decide how to define and regulate marital definitions, rights, obligations and benefits. I do, however, believe that same sex couples should be entitled to the same legal protections and benefits as other individuals in this country."
If that's the case, Krassitchkova doesn't understand why the decision would ever be left to the states.
"These are federal rights, not state rights," she said.
When asked before the primary for his take on social issues, including same sex marriage, he said he does "not believe that we need to create new laws to regulate society." He also did not return a message left Thursday.
Krassitchkova said she hopes U.S. officials will embrace changes in laws benefitting the gay community in the future. Some, like Obama, are getting closer.
He has admitted in past years that his feelings on gay marriage are "constantly evolving." As a candidate for state Senate in Illinois representing the South Side, he went back and forth on the issue, at one point offering his full support and other times declining to back it. He declared his pro-civil union stance as a candidate for president in 2008 but didn't take the issue further at that time.
His evolution has confused those like conservative blogger Jill Stanek, of Mokena, who's known for her support for pro-life legislation. She likened the president's most recent announcement to "opening a can of worms."
"Well, of course, I think he's wrong," she said Thursday morning. "I think that he's opening a floodgate. Not only is homosexual marriage wrong but also if you take away the qualification that marriage is between a man and a woman, you open the gateway for any kind of coupling."
Fran Eaton, who writes for the conservative blog Illinois Review, echoed those sentiments. She questioned whether brothers would soon be able to marry their sisters or if more than two people would be able to join together in matrimony.
Allowing same-sex marriage would skew the definition of the union as it's stood "since the beginning of history," the Oak Forest resident said.
"What your neighbor does behind closed doors doesn't matter," Eaton said. "But once it affects public policy? … That does begin to affect us outside of the doors of our homes and that's just a huge issue."
Rev. Peggy McClanahan, senior pastor of Pilgrim Faith United Church of Christ in Oak Lawn, said she was pleased with Obama’s public backing of marriage equality for same-sex couples.
“I think President Obama was right on target when he framed it ‘do unto others and you would want them to do unto you,’” the pastor said. “That’s the core of it for our church, treating everyone with love and helping them to be more loving in their own lives. Everyone ought to be able to commit to the one that they love.”
Last September, the congregation of Pilgrim Faith decided together that members would support religious ceremonies for couples entering civil unions.
As of yet, McClanahan said she hasn’t had any requests from same-sex couples looking to seal their civil union with a religious ceremony, “but I would certainly love to do one.”
Patch editor Lorraine Swanson contributed to this report.