I have voted in state and Congressional elections. I remember deriving pleasure from going beyond the confines of two party politics to vote for John Monds in the 2010 governor’s race, because I knew that both Roy Barnes and Nathan Deal were homophobic. If I had to it to do over, I would vote for Monds again. But this is the first presidential election in which I will be voting. And I will be voting for Barack Obama. At one time, I regarded him much less positively than I do now. I was appalled by his opposition to gay marriage and his espousing of the idea that heterosexual couples should be allowed to have civil marriage, while gay couples should be forced to settle for civil unions. I continually chided my liberal friends for being so enthusiastic about Barack Obama. I proudly supported Mike Gravel, who strongly favored gay marriage, in the primaries. I said that Dennis Kucinich, who had come around by 2004 to publicly support gay marriage, would be the second best nominee. I would have voted for Obama in 2008 had I been old enough, but only as the lesser of two evils. And I did not realize how disastrous a McCain presidency would have been until I saw the Arizona Senator fight tooth and nail to uphold “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” There were a couple things that changed my attitude about Obama. The seeds of this change were planted when he stopped defending DOMA in court and helped get “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed. But I was still debating about whether or not to tepidly support Obama or vote for a pro-gay marriage third party candidate. What changed all that were twenty-nine words from the president: “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” I immediately knew that I would be voting for Barack Obama in November. And the fact that he had become the first sitting president to publicly support equal rights for gay people made me admire him a lot. I now see what I was missing for the past five years of not being an Obama lover. These days, I’d love to hang out with President Obama. Am I a single issue voter? You bet I am. The most fundamental, straightforward moral issue facing this country is whether or not all people will receive equality under the law regardless of immutable traits. The most important test for a nation is whether or not all citizens have equal rights under the law regardless of immutable traits. As long as a nation denies some citizens equal rights under the law based on immutable traits, that nation can never be truly great nor truly free. Sexual orientation is an immutable trait, meaning that it is inherent and unchangeable. It is as fundamental to one’s identity as eye color and fingerprints. It is impossible to control the gender of the person one falls in love with, just as it impossible to control the person one falls in love with. You may or may not fall in love with a certain person depending on factors such as availability, but the gender you are hardwired to be attracted to will not and cannot be changed. Because sexual orientation is immutable, it is just as immoral to deny a person equal rights based on sexual orientation as it is to deny a person equal rights based on race. For these reasons, as important as issues like the economy and foreign policy are, I believe that equal rights for gay people is even more important. I am a fiscal conservative. I do not want national health care, and I think the bailouts were a mistake. I think Medicare privatization needs to be seriously considered. But I will vote based on gay rights. So why not vote for Gary Johnson, Rocky Anderson, or Jill Stein? Well, let’s face it, Gary Johnson supported same sex marriage about six months before Obama, but if the president’s shift is a case of moving with the political wind, then so is Johnson’s. When Johnson was a Republican, he opposed gay marriage and played the “I’m evolving” card. Shortly before switching to the pro-gay marriage Libertarian Party, Johnson came out in favor of marriage equality. It is true that Rocky Anderson and Jill Stein have phenomenal track records on gay rights. Anderson first came out in support of gay marriage in 1996, Stein in 2001. And Stein says she wants to force states to legalize gay marriage, something Obama is unwilling to do. But the fact of the matter is that Anderson and Stein have no chance of getting elected president. But there is a person in the Oval Office right now who is running on a platform of equal rights for gay people, the first major party nominee ever to do so. He has done more for gay rights than any president before and has been working to clean up the homophobic messes Bill Clinton left us with. That person is Barack Obama. When there is one person who supports equal rights for gay people and has a good chance of winning and another who has supported equal rights for gay people longer and more vigorously but has no chance of getting anywhere near the presidency, I have to go with the former. It is counterproductive to dwell on the “man and woman” drivel that Obama was spouting in 2008. I have to vote based on what Obama is saying now, not what he said four years ago, just like I cannot vote based on the fact that Democrats in the 1800s and 1900s supported slavery, the Trail of Tears, and Jim Crow. Also important to consider is who will be president if Obama does not win reelection? Mitt Romney. He keeps flip flopping on a number of gay rights issues, and the Log Cabin Republicans seem to be trying to imply that he might kinda sorta support federal workplace protection for gay people, even though he’s said the opposite pretty clearly. But one thing he has been consistent on during both his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaign is that he opposes gay marriage. He will defend DOMA, unlike Obama. And he has pledged to sign a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. I think that in a way, President Obama is a lot like Ulysses S. Grant. Corruption scandals plagued Grant’s administration in much the same way that a bad economy and questionable fiscal policy have plagued Obama’s. This has led to Grant often being ranked among the worst presidents. Yet in 1870, Grant favored a constitutional amendment giving black men the right to vote. In 1875, he signed a civil rights bill banning racial segregation in most public accommodations, which the Supreme Court regrettably struck down in 1883) He sent federal troops to the South to protect African Americans from racist violence. Grant started out in a very bigoted position. In the 1850s, he was a proslavery Democrat. But after the war, he became a Radical Republican. The fact is that Ulysses S. Grant did more for African Americans’ rights than any president except Lincoln. LBJ, and possibly JFK, though that is quite debatable. Sadly, however, most historians prior to the Civil Rights Movement believed in nationalist and neo-Confederate historiography and viewed Reconstruction as a vicious regime imposed on white Southerners that gave former slaves power and rights that they were incapable of exercising. Abolitionists and neo-abolitionist historians defended Reconstruction, but for much of the twentieth century they were ignored. But as neo-abolitionist historians increasingly gain a foothold, and Republicans tout Grant as an example of their party’s historic support for civil rights, old Ulysses is starting to rise in the presidential rankings. I believe that some day, historians will also appreciate Barack Obama’s unprecedented (for a U.S. president) support for equal rights. I dearly hope that we will be able to see what he can do for equal rights in a second term.