A column from Linda Hirshman, author of Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution, coming June 5:
With that statement, President (and candidate) Barack Obama advanced a cause that had been moving at geological speed until Vice President Joe Biden suddenly thrust the administration into support.
Last time a presidential campaign jumped the gun on gay matters, Bill Clinton casually promised to end the exclusion of gays from the military in 1992. Although he didn’t lose that election, many analysts date the weakening of his administration from his losing battle to make good on that promise, culminating in the universally despised “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Twelve years later, after the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued the first gay marriage decision, African-American boxing promoter Don King toured the black churches of Ohio to gin up the Republican vote. The difference — the black vote went from 10 percent Republican to 17 percent Republican — arguably took the state and the 2004 election from John Kerry.
Obama’s committed not to make the same mistake. After Vice President Biden grew feet and walked out of the warm sea on “Meet the Press,” Obama couldn’t duck anymore. But he’s not Bill Clinton, and he’s not John Kerry. Because he’s not white. And so he has a unique opportunity to move the gay issue along faster than anyone else could.