President Obama has over time made clear his position on gay marriage. His open affirmation of support this week however has far-reaching influence. At a time when teens are affirming their sexual orientation at earlier and earlier ages, the president’s support is a strong victory toward society’s ultimate acceptance, support, and understanding of alternative sexual orientations.
Coming out is rarely easy. Research reflects that on average teens are secure in their sexual identity two years before actually telling their parents. The parents of these teens report that their biggest concern for their teens is that of safety. They worry that their children will be subjected to teasing, taunting, and even terrorizing by less accepting peers. In generations past parents also lamented the loss of the opportunity for their children to enjoy a "conventional lifestyle" aka marriage and children. Obama’s announcement will do much to dispel such concerns.
The recent ban on gay marriages in North Carolina was a major blow towards a cultural movement focused on acceptance and change. While the reverberations of this decision will be felt statewide, Obama’s outright support of gay marriage will certainly soften the impact.
In the search for identity teens often feel vulnerable and confused. This is especially true for teens choosing alternative sexual identities. Teens tend to idolize and worship public figures with whom they feel they can identify. The behaviors and opinions of celebrities such as athletes, rock stars, movie stars, and of course public figures such as the president matter.
By embracing gay marriage President Obama has suggested to today’s teens that an alternative sexual identity doesn’t need to be equated with sacrifice or strife. The decision to affirm an alternative sexual identity is rarely easy. For teens it means choosing to publicly acknowledge a difference that may make them vulnerable to disapproval and disdain depending on where they live. For many teens it also means disappointing parents and loved ones who are reticent or even resistant to accepting the affirmation. Obama’s support of marriage as an institution open to all will hopefully in time encourage individuals to reassess their prejudices.
Martin Luther King dreamed of a society in which differences were not only accepted and supported but celebrated. President Obama’s bold declaration will hopefully bring us one step closer to living the dream. Despite the fact that states such as North Carolina have suggested we still have a long way to go, change is coming.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Jennifer Powell-Lunder and Barbara Greenberg blogs at Talking Teenage.