Obama's Gay Marriage Evolution: A Societal Shift?
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
President Obama made a personal statement in a TV interview this week. He didn't call for any new laws or initiatives. But many Americans seem to hear his statement as a truly significant moment in American history. Novelist and screenwriter Armistead Maupin joins us. Mr. Maupin is best known for his breakthrough "Tales of the City" series. He joins us from member station KQED in San Francisco. Thanks so much for being with us.
ARMISTEAD MAUPIN: Oh, it's a pleasure, Scott.
SIMON: How do you feel about what the president said?
MAUPIN: It was something I felt in my heart. A lot of pundits have been kind of analyzing, oh, what does it mean and why did he do it. But as a gay man who's been an activist for almost 40 years now, it was an extraordinarily moving thing to hear an unequivocal statement to the effect that gay love was the equal to opposite sex and attraction. Gay people are used to hearing something, you know, especially from Democrats, some little nod towards I'm with you folks but usually in some private dinner, never publically, never without equivocation like this. And so it was a big moment, whatever the reasons for it, it was a big, big moment.
SIMON: What do you think it changes?
MAUPIN: Well, we talk about bullying a lot in this country as if it's something that's generated in schoolyards, but in fact it's generated in churches and by politicians, by parents even, who don't even consider the fact that their own children might be gay. So, when something like this comes from the top, from the very top, it's going to filter down. It can't help but filter down.
SIMON: You grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, right?
MAUPIN: I did.
SIMON: And North Carolina has undoubtedly, you know, the 31st state this week to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage.
MAUPIN: Absolutely, yeah.
SIMON: Now, the president says that while he supports gay marriage, he leaves to local states to make their own decisions. Is that enough for you? Would you press him and people in Congress for federal laws?
MAUPIN: I will eventually. At the moment, I simply want to celebrate what he's done. That battle was very personal to me because I have relatives in North Carolina. I have a brother a few years younger than I am who is an avowed Rush Limbaugh conservative Republican. And everything I've posted about Amendment One, prior to and after, has been met with stony silence on Facebook. That's how we communicate with each other these days. And I'm aware that he thinks it's part of his party platform to deny full equality to gay and lesbian people. And yet, the same brother whom I know to be a kind-hearted man actually attended my own wedding to Christopher Turner. He congratulated us, he toasted us, but somehow he's not made the connect yet between what knows personally to be true and the political agenda of his party.
We're seeing the shift happen, and it's not happening because of politicians; it's happening because Americans themselves are being exposed to their own members of their family and their friends. And they realize they cannot keep up this barbarism much longer. It's funny, I still - I was at the dentist yesterday and the hygienist came in and I heard myself making the choices to whether or not I would say my partner, which is now acceptable, or whether I would say my husband, which still throws people when I say it. And I went for husband, because I do wherever I go. Because it's important that people know that we feel that way about each other. We called each other husbands long before we were married, by the way, because we knew we had arrived to that point where we were committed to each other from life and we wanted to assert that to each other. And it really does help to have the leader of the free world say that he approves of that. It helps a lot.
SIMON: Novelist and screenwriter Armistead Maupin speaking from KQED in San Francisco. Thanks so much.
MAUPIN: My pleasure, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.