"I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," - US President Barack Obama.
There was a time when it would have been unthinkable for an American president to utter those words, but today that era has passed. In a nation divided by Democrats and Republicans, secular and religious, north and south, today marks a day where America has moved one step closer to no longer being a nation divided by straight and gay. The United States of America are on a firmer path to being united.
The fight for same-sex marriage is not over. In the same interview where President Obama affirmed his personal opinion in favour of same-sex marriage, he also affirmed that legally he still felt this was an issue to be handled at the state level.
Yesterday's passing of a constitutional amendment in North Carolina banning same-sex marriage, and civil unions highlights that the President still has some way to go in convincing others to adopt his personal opinion.
But that is for another day.
Today's remarks by Obama, the culmination of his "evolving" views, are to be celebrated, particularly by the countless Americans who have dedicated themselves to this cause. They are words of joy for the millions of committed couples who have waited in vain for an affirmation that their love counted. President Obama's proclamation is also cause for celebration by the LGBT American teenagers who, when walking down their school hallways, can now look bullies in the eye knowing that this time, the President really does have their back. They are, as incoming Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin declared, words that "will be celebrated by generations to come."
Up here in Canada, there is also cause for celebration. So often the world looks to America for leadership. However, as Americans rejoice and prepare for the coming challenge to turn the President's words in action, we can take comfort in knowing that on this important issue, we led the way. As Americans tore themselves apart, and as they will continue to in the fight ahead, Canada should be proud that when it came to equality and fairness, we behaved like adults and did the right thing.
There is no knowing what the effects of this announcement will be. Republicans and Democrats are sure to pounce on it to mobilize their respective bases in advance of the November election. There is concern that this might adversely affect the President's standing with African Americans leery of supporting same-sex marriage. It might push moderate voters away. Mitt Romney has made his opposition to same-sex marriage clear and would be happy to enlist their support.
At least now the way is paved for an honest election. Americans will be presented with two competing visions for the future of their nation.
On one side stands a man guided by religious tradition not fit for this time, one that embraces difference and inequality, one that provides a cover for hatred and bigotry. On the other side stands a man who today, in the face of resistance and an uncertain road ahead, boldly proclaimed that if all men and women are created as equals, they shall also live and love as equals.
Follow Josh D. Scheinert on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joshscheinert