Editorial: Obama catches up to JP on same-sex marriage

President Obama finally caught up with Jamaica Plain today on same-sex marriage, declaring his personal support for it in a groundbreaking announcement.

Same-sex marriage in the U.S. began in Massachusetts, but even more specifically in JP. The pioneering lawsuit that in 2004 led to the legalization of same-sex marriage here, and eventually in other states, had several JP couples as plaintiffs. It was named Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health after Julie and Hillary Goodridge, JP residents who were already familiar faces to the neighbors here before they were in world news.

Like many politicians, Obama is leading by following. His support for same-sex marriage is calculated and late, far behind his party and most of his supporters. But it is also crucial. What the president says about public policy, not to mention basic equal rights, matters.

What the governor of Massachusetts says matters, too. Then Governor, now presidential candidate, Mitt Romney’s reaction in 2004 was not well-received here. Not only did he oppose same-sex marriage, but he also attempted to limit it by resurrecting an odious anti-interracial-marriage law. He called JP’s loving couples a case of “marriage confusion.” Those kinds of statements are not forgotten, either.

Same-sex marriage has not destroyed religion or damaged straight marriages. It also has not been any more perfect than straight marriages; the Goodridges have since gotten divorced. What same-sex marriage has done is eliminated second-class citizenship under which millions of people still suffer in benighted states and countries. Our state no longer looks down its nose at people who love each other enough to make an extraordinary commitment. And we do not deny them the benefits society heaps upon married couples to sustain them.

It is called equal protection under the law. It is called treating our neighbors fairly. It is something for all of us–gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender–to be proud of.

JP was right about same-sex marriage eight years ago. President Obama is right to join us on the issue now.

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