Courageous. Historic. Inspiring. Misguided. Immoral. Out of touch.
Reactions ranged widely in the Philadelphia region to President Obama's unequivocal statement Wednesday in support of gay marriage rights, an issue that has elicited strong feelings across the country about morality, religion, and constitutional rights.
"At first, I was dumbfounded," said Oberon Wackwitz, a gay 17-year-old from North Philadelphia. Wackwitz, a junior at a Philadelphia charter school, had been with a group of friends at the Attic Youth Center, a Center City program that supports gay teens, when the television interview on ABC was broadcast.
"I couldn't believe he was saying this," said Wackwitz. "We finally have a president who is trying to understand what our struggle is and why it's so important to make this possible, so that gay marriage is legalized nationwide."
Some were disturbed by the president's position.
"I don't agree with it. It's an abomination," said Previn McCray, manager of Philly Styles Hair Studio, a barbershop on 11th and Chestnut Streets. "It's not in the Bible, not in the Koran, not in any religious book. Obama hurt my feelings on that one."
But McCray, 43, said he understands why long-term gay couples might want the kinds of legal protections that heterosexual couples have. "If you have established something, why shouldn't you be able to keep it?"
Stylist Rick Champagne, 41, was less ambivalent. "I don't have nothing against gay people. Half my clientele is gay, but we're not made to connect that kind of way."
Patrons at Woody's on 13th Street watched Obama's interview on the television above the bar. Chris Tadeo, 80, praised the president and talked about how much he'd love to marry his longtime partner, Wayne Marquardt. They've lived together for 32 years in Philadelphia.
"We consider that we're married, and we love each other," Tadeo said. "But we'd like to be law-abiding."
At the office of Philadelphia Gay News, publisher Mark Segal saw Obama's interview and immediately told the editor to hold the front page because the paper would need a new lead story and headline.
"The president was very brave and very bold. He spoke from principle rather than politics," Segal said. "It was historic -- it sets a new bar."
The staff was especially touched, he said, "by the way he talked about it, within the framework of family and values."
The president's position is not going to persuade citizens like those who voted in North Carolina this week to pass an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage, said Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, the state's LGBT advocacy organization.
And politically, it is unlikely to nudge the solidly conservative Republican majority in Harrisburg, led by Gov. Corbett, who has repeatedly affirmed his opposition to gay marriage. (Corbett declined to comment on the president's remarks Wednesday.)
Nevertheless, Martin said, the president's words will have an impact. "It elevates the discussion," he said.
"This is a watershed moment for gay equality," said Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the Equality Forum, an international LGBT civil rights organization. "The president is sending a message that can only accelerate the inevitable, which is overwhelming acceptance of same-sex marriage. We're really thrilled he has used the bully pulpit to promote it."
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