As the President celebrates the advance of marriage equality, Speaker Boehner keeps his grim face, the six SCOTUS justices maintain their practiced neutrality (they have cases pending, and were not there as a partisan cheering section), and one of the heroes of Selma rises to his feet.
It is worth noting that by using the phrase "civil right" about gay marriage last night, the President moved the discussion forward. Those of us who have been on the front lines of the marriage equality fight have studiously avoided using that phrase, because it has been a sore point with African American voters. We used phrases like "equal rights" and "human rights" instead. Here in D.C., when the Foundation for All D.C. Families hired Celinda Lake to do a poll on marriage equality in 2006, this was one of the points we examined.
The issue of messaging, where you consider your audience when framing your message, may seem cynical and calculating, but when you are trying to persuade people and win their votes, it is not helpful to start by pissing them off. This is a linguistic point on which white gay activists have respectfully let black leaders like Rep. John Lewis and President Obama take the lead. And if there is a greater moral authority than John Lewis, I would like to know who.