News of President Obama coming out in support of same-sex marriage has residents excited with anticipation of change.
“It’s a great day,” West Hollywood resident Rick Watts told Patch. “It’s wonderful to finally, at long last, have a sitting president in favor of full equality for LGBT persons. Now we’ve to help him get that accomplished.”
Tom Pease, a member of the Beverly Hills Human Relations Commission, called Obama’s announcement “amazing.”
“I’m very happy that the president has finally recognized the need and the right of same sex couples to be married,” Pease told Patch.
President Obama made his announcement during an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, after previously saying his position on same-sex marriage was “evolving.”
"I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient," Obama told ABC. "I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people the word 'marriage' was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth . . . it is important for me personally to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married."
While there was jubilance in the air, it was also subdued. News like this often brings out large numbers of people for a rally or march, but not in this case.
A quickly planned late-afternoon rally in Beverly Hills across from the Beverly Hilton Hotel brought out about 20 people. Some stood beside Wilshire Boulevard waving rainbow flags and holding signs saying “Repeal DOMA” [Defense of Marriage Act] and “Dear President Obama: THANK YOU!!” Cars honked to show their support as they whizzed by.
Beverly Hills might seem like an odd place to hold a Marriage Equality rally, but Nii-Quartelai Quartey, political vice president of the Stonewall Democratic Club, who helped organize the rally, said the site was chosen because Obama would be staying at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday night following a fundraiser at actor George Clooney’s house.
Quartey explained that the park was the site of an angry rally in 2009 when Obama seemed to be dragging him feet on LGBT issues, so holding the rally there was a way of coming full circle to show support for Obama.
Beverly Hills Mayor Willie Brien was one of those attending the rally. He called the president’s announcement “heroic.”
“[Obama] came out as a leader today,” Brien told Patch. “I truly believe with this decision we will see real positive changes going forward. Our fight begins now because now we need to make this the law of the land. But for today, we should enjoy it, we should embrace it. We should recognize that with President Obama, hope is alive and change is coming.”
Torie Osborn, a candidate in the state’s 50th Assembly race, was also at the rally. She called it a “historic day,” saying Obama’s announcement was courageous.
Osborn said she helped organize the first ever Oval Office meeting between LGBT leaders and President Clinton in 1993, but at the time never imagined something like this happening.
“It’s our movement’s absolute, unstoppable commitment to this issue coming out of the wake of AIDS,” Osborn told Patch. “It’s our embrace of love, marriage, family, everybody having kids, the gayby boom. It’s a human response to the holocaust of AIDS. It’s a life force that wouldn’t be stopped.”
Lester Aponte, the marriage equality chair for the Stonewall Democratic Club, said that Obama is now on the “right side of history.”
“That has a huge impact on all of the things that we are fighting for,” Aponte said. “It’s really just being able to live our lives in peace and have the same dignity and the same rights as every other American.”
Activist Lee Walkup said that even though the rally’s turnout was small, every victory should be celebrated. He then added, “the war is still onto the hill.”
West Hollywood leaders were not in attendance at the Beverly Hills rally, but the city posted post their reactions on the city’s website.
Back in West Hollywood, longtime resident Victor Omelczenko, said he made a contribution to Obama’s reelection campaign as soon as he heard the news.
“I’m glad he’s come out on our side,” Omelczenko told Patch. “I thought that deserved some money for his reelection.
Alex Davis, chatting about the news with friends at the Abbey, said he was elated.
“Coming out is a courageous thing to do,” Davis said. “Every gay person knows that. And now Obama knows what it feels like too. He’ll take some heat for it, but coming out has never been easy.”