Are We Ready for a Gay President?

May 20, 2011

May 22nd is Harvey Milk Day—a day when we pause to remember the first openly gay man elected to public office. This really got me thinking about the possibility of one day having a gay president. Check out this excerpt from a speech Harvey Milk gave shortly before his assassination in 1978.

The sexual orientation of a president would not affect his or her judgment and ability to lead a country. Although I feel very optimistic about a gay president’s ability to lead, this doesn’t change the fact that many people feel like we could never have a gay president. Being gay is still kept secret within politics. Politicians understandably worry that prejudice and homophobia among voters will hurt them at election time.

While a gay politician might have a difficult time getting elected, what if it actually happened? Would we be prepared to have a gay or lesbian president living in the White House with his or her partner?

A few months ago, I read a story in The New York Times by Maureen Dowd called, “A Gay Commander in Chief: Ready or Not?” Dowd points out that the Defense of Marriage Act does not recognize same-sex marriages as legal, so it’s quite possible federal funds could not be used on a gay president’s partner. It’s possible the president’s partner might not be able to live in the White House or even be protected by the Secret Service. The potential for this kind of unfair treatment of someone holding the highest political office in our country surprised me.

Having the first African American president in office makes me hopeful that someone who is gay or lesbian will one day be able to hold the office of president of the United States of America. I know we are still a long way from this, but we can hope.

—Sam Woods-Corr, 16, Staff Writer

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