Gay Marriage, Barack Obama, and Andrew Sullivan

More
case for gay marriage (2).jpg

I was at the New Republic in 1989 when Andrew Sullivan published his pathbreaking cover story "The Case for Gay Marriage." There are two things about the experience that may be hard to convey to people younger than 25, maybe even 30:

1) What a radical idea this seemed like at the time. I'm not sure I'd ever heard anyone mention gay marriage, and I'd certainly never seen a written defense of it.

2) How important a single magazine could be in pre-internet days. Mike Kinsley, who for my money is the most amazing editor of his generation, had during the 1980s made the New Republic the magazine in Washington.

The combination of these two things was potent. When you take an off-the-charts idea and unveil it on the most prominent stage in Washington, it gets people talking. Yesterday, when President Obama embraced gay marriage, this was a kind of culmination of the conversation that Andrew, more than any other person, started.

Back then Andrew wasn't officially out of the closet; few prominent gay people were, compared to now. And I remember Mike wondering--with a bit of protective concern, as I recall--whether Andrew realized that, having published this piece, he would have trouble keeping his sexual identity private. Indeed, it was as an openly gay man--and an openly gay Catholic, no less--that Andrew would stay in the middle of the conversation he'd started, helping to push it outward until it enveloped the nation.

In the first paragraph of the piece, Andrew described gay marriage as an idea with both radical and conservative elements, but by the end of the piece he'd made it clear which element he considered essential: "It's one of the richest ironies of our society's blind spot toward gays that essentially conservative social goals should have the appearance of being so radical. But gay marriage is not a radical step." It doesn't seem so now, no. This fact--that radical enlightenment can transpire in the course of a couple of decades--kind of gives you hope.


Jump to comments
Presented by

Robert Wright is the author of, most recently, the New York Times bestseller The Evolution of God and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic. More

Wright is also a fellow at the New America Foundation and editor in chief of Bloggingheads.tv. His other books include Nonzero, which was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book in 2000 and included on Fortune magazine's list of the top 75 business books of all-time. Wright's best-selling book The Moral Animal was selected as one of the ten best books of 1994 by The New York Times Book Review.Wright has contributed to The Atlantic for more than 20 years. He has also contributed to a number of the country's other leading magazines and newspapers, including: The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, Time, and Slate, and the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times. He is the recipient of a National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism and his books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Breathtaking Tour Above the Moab Desert

Filmmaker Ian Cresswell rigs an HD camera atop a remote-controlled "octocopter" for some spectacular aerial views.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In