Obama's gay marriage endorsement a turning point for one couple
Three years ago, a shy young couple from Ohio announced to startled family and friends that they were heading west to marry and begin a new life together in California.
Soon after they exchanged vows in Long Beach before the wide Pacific Ocean, California voters approved a change to the state Constitution that put their marriage in doubt. For Christopher Lewis, 28, and Cody Horton, 24, it was a painful rejection of who they are and what means most to them.
On Wednesday, the couple, who now live in Bakersfield, were back in Dayton, Ohio, visiting family when Lewis’ cellphone lit up with the news that President Obama had declared support for homosexual couples to marry.
"Back when Proposition 8 passed, I was just so incredibly frustrated with President Obama. You know, why isn’t he saying anything? He’s supposedly an advocate for the gay community," Lewis said by phone. "Wow, what a difference three or four years makes. I would not have thought that in three to four years that the president of the United States would be endorsing gay marriage."
Lewis sounded almost giddy at the possibilities. Perhaps Obama would work to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a law his administration considers discriminatory. Perhaps there would be a bill recognizing gay marriage.
"He’s the first sitting president to ever make the endorsement," Lewis said. "My hope is that … he will lead from the front now."
Then he thought about the election.
"I know it sounds crazy, but I’d almost rather him not endorse it and get elected and do it later than have someone that is very very anti-gay show up," Lewis said, sounding worried.
At the very least, he hopes Obama’s position will influence some of his followers to be more accepting of the gay community and marriage between same-sex couples.
"Certainly the African American community follows his lead and respects him, and there’s a huge need to reach out to that community," Lewis said.
He laughed at the thought of all the Obama campaign emails he responded to with: "Not donating until you endorse gay marriage."
"I guess I owe him some money," Lewis said.
After putting down the phone, Lewis realized he had one more thing to say.
"The one thing I would want to say to Mr. Obama if I had the chance is, 'Thank you,' " Lewis wrote in an email. "The truth is, as a gay American my life is much better because he had the chance to be the president and I hope he knows that."
-- Alexandra Zavis
Photo: Cody Horton, left, and Christopher Lewis, protest on Nov. 6, 2008, the passage of Proposition 8, which Lewis said "was the end of our last hope." Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times