The evolution of the nation's 'first gay president'
President Barack Obama hosts a reception in honor of national Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month in the East Room of the White House June 15, 2012 in Washington, DC.
March 4th, 2013
12:00 PM ET

The evolution of the nation's 'first gay president'

By Michael Martinez, CNN

(CNN) - He has been declared America's "first gay president."

But President Barack Obama's evolution to that title hasn't been easy. His positions zig-zagged over almost two decades.

The president and the nation have evolved on same-sex marriage

His advocacy of same-sex marriage began well before his White House years, tracing back to his early political service in Illinois. The effectiveness of his leadership, however, will be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court as it considers a California ban on same-sex marriage.

1996: While running for the Illinois Senate, Obama signs a questionnaire for a gay Chicago publication saying he favors legalizing same-sex marriages. He later wins the race.

1998: He alters course and answers "undecided" on same-sex marriage when questioned in another survey.

2003: In his campaign for the Illinois Senate, Obama says in a questionnaire that he is against repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that states for federal purposes, marriage is defined as only between one man and one woman.

2004: When running for the U.S. Senate, he notes he is "a Christian" and that "marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman." He wins the race.

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Filed under: History • How we live • Politics • Sexual orientation
March 4th, 2013
09:04 AM ET

Opinion: Challenge to Voting Rights Act ignores reality

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking with Grease." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

(CNN) - On Tuesday, President Barack Obama was at the Capitol, joining leaders of Congress to dedicate a statue in honor of the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement," Alabama's Rosa Parks. About the same time, across the street at the Supreme Court, an Alabama lawyer was arguing that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act - the consequence and legacy of the Civil Rights Movement - was unnecessary and unconstitutional.

The irony lies not only in the timing or juxtaposition, but the institutions.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat when a white bus driver ordered her to move. Twelve years earlier, the same driver had grabbed her coat sleeve and pushed her off his bus for trying to enter through the front rather than the back door. This time he said, "Well, if you don't stand up, I'm going to have to call the police and have you arrested." She replied, "You may do that."

Her arrest led to a 381-day boycott of Montgomery buses by the black community. The boycott propelled the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to prominence as a civil rights leader. And the arrest of Parks and the boycott she inspired led to a civil law suit, Browder v. Gayle, in which the Supreme Court declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws requiring segregated buses unconstitutional.

It took Congress 10 years to catch up to the Supreme Court, when it passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Although Alabama's at it again with the new challenge, this time it seems the conservative majority of the Supreme Court wants to roll back the clock. Frank C. Ellis Jr., the attorney for plaintiff Shelby County, argues that Congress exceeded its authority in 2006 when it reauthorized Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years.