As supporters of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights celebrated President Barack Obama's affirmation Wednesday of same-sex marriage, Brian Richardson noted it as a personal victory.
“It’s emotional. It means a lot," said Richardson, the Director of Media Affairs at Chicago's Center on Halsted, his voice quivering as he thoughtfully chose his words.
Richardson and his partner tied the knot three years ago in California. While their union wasn't within the period The Golden State granted marriage licenses and though it's not recognized in Illinois, Obama's announcement on their "anniversary" was profound, he said.
"It’s personally moving to have a president willing to stand up for you and who you are," Richardson said.
Obama on Wednesday became the first sitting president to back gay marriage, announcing his support in an interview with ABC News.
"For me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married," he told Good Morning America's Robin Roberts.
The interview comes three days after Vice President Joe Biden, in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press", said he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan expressed his support on Monday.
Reaction to the news from those on the right side of the aisle was swift, with some theorizing the president was pandering for votes as the election draws near.
Nonsense, said Richardson.
"It’s the president taking a firm stance. I think it will send a clear signal to the rest of the country that President Obama is a man of integrity and of courage to stand up and say what is right and do the right thing," he said. "President Obama has long been a supporter of LGBT rights, but his comments today show that he is a permanent, unequivocal supporter of equality.”
Political pundits say Obama's announcement is a big gamble. On Tuesday, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to their state's constitution which limits marriage to traditional one-man, one-woman relationships. And in Colorado, an impasse between legislators there stalled a bill that would have granted civil unions.
Still, Wednesday was a good day for those pushing to advance same-sex marriage.
"It's a great day for the LGBT community," State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) told ChicagoPride.com. "A long time coming. I'm just very happy! It's a day of sunshine!"
"On this historic day, I applaud President Obama for demonstrating his commitment to equality for all," U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-Illinois) said in a released statement. "His affirmation of support for marriage equality today is incredibly meaningful, and I look forward to another day soon, when all Americans can enjoy the full civil rights guaranteed to each of us. As another great leader once said, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.'"
"Thank you Mr. President," Rep. Deb Mell wrote on Twitter.
Civil Unions have been available in Illinois since Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill into law on Jan. 31, 2011.