President Obama's highly public and often-tortured evolution on gay issues is complete.
The politician who opposed gay marriage, was cautious on allowing gays to serve openly in the military, and resisted calls to ban federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation has come a long way in six years. Indeed, he has become the president who has done more for gay people than any of his predecessors.
"The cycle of evolution has come full circle," proclaimed Richard Socarides, the New York lawyer who was President Clinton's top adviser on gay issues and remains deeply involved in issues important to the LGBT community. "The evolution is complete."
Socarides has been a frequent visitor to the White House for meetings on gay issues. Many of those sessions, he recalled, were "contentious." At several, Obama sided with the activists on the merits of an issue but laid out a course that was much slower than they desired. On more than one occasion, Socarides said, the president told them the story of President Roosevelt's meeting with labor leaders after his election in 1932. FDR told the union leaders: "I agree with you; I want to do it; now, make me do it."
"That's how we kind of always felt we had to deal with him," said Socarides. "His heart has always been with us, and his policy wonk side has always been with us. But in terms of actually taking steps to deliver on the policy goals, we had to push him."