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Obama's Gay Professor Says Marriage Decision Both 'Brave' And 'Cynical'

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In a 2008 interview with The Advocate, Barack Obama said his mother and a professor at Occidental College, Lawrence Goldyn, had the most influence on his acceptance of gay people. 

"He was the first openly gay professor that I had ever come in contact with," the then-candidate said at the time. "He was just a terrific guy… His comfort in his own skin and the friendship we developed helped to educate me on a number of these issues."

Now the Obama is president, and has come out in favor of same-sex marriage, Goldyn's saying that the president's decision is "brave" yet "cynical."

"I think it's very brave in a way because he risks of course alienating some right wing people who might otherwise have stayed out of the election," Goldyn told BuzzFeed. "I think it's probably a somewhat cynical calculation he made [but] he's a smart politician and I don't blame him for that."

Goldyn also discussed with BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray how Obama was unique in his interest in and support of an openly gay man.

Goldyn recalled that when the future president was a student at Occidental, he "talked to me, he hung around from me, he wanted to learn from me. He was clearly not gay. But he thought I was somebody unusual and somebody he had something to learn from."

"It's a very rare straight man who will hang out with a gay teacher in order to learn things."

Goldyn had a following of students at Occidental (he called it a "constituency"), mostly "gay men and women of color." Obama was a rare, straight male exception in that group.

"I don't see it as he was somebody who wanted to know me," Goldyn said. "He was someone who wasn't afraid of me."

Though proud of his former pupil, Goldyn is also wary of the marriage debate, telling Gray that the institution itself comes with loads of oppressive baggage.

"[Marriage] is one of the most conservative institutions in human history," he said. "So it's hard for me to get really enthusiastic about it personally."

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Comments

  1. Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was brave and cynical too. To the slaves that it ultimately freed they didn't really care why he did it, just that it was done. I don't care why or how or about the timing, Obama did the right thing yesterday. That is all that will ultimately matter to me.

    Posted by: Jim | May 10, 2012 10:19:48 AM


  2. Here's the thing I don't understand, people were bitching about the fact that he wasn't firm regarding this issue for a long time now. He finally speaks on it and now it's "cynical"... GTFO of here. Seriously. You really can't please anyone!

    Rolling my eyes so hard.

    Posted by: Monsieur V | May 10, 2012 10:27:38 AM


  3. The Emancipation Proclamation emancipated slaves. What exactly changed yesterday for the gay people? Other than that now we know Obama really likes us.

    Posted by: AG | May 10, 2012 10:28:48 AM


  4. Of course it was cynical, he's a politician! Really good politicians are cynical, even our beloved Kennedys, who are about as cynical and calculated as you can get while simultaneously actually believing what they say. Politicians aren't your friends, they're elected to do things that take care of the nation, and they accomplish that by being cynical and calculated in order to get what they want.

    Posted by: NaughtyLola | May 10, 2012 10:44:12 AM


  5. AG,

    While the Emancipation Proclamation did indeed free some slaves, it did not make slavery illegal, nor did it makes former slaves citizens. It took 3 more years and a Constitutional Amendment to make slavery illegal.

    Gays will not see all of the rights they are due immediately, but this is a step in that direction. The ripples in the pond, if you will.

    I was thrilled to hear the president make his views known yesterday. Not so thrilled that he endorsed it being a states issue. Which it is clearly not.

    I know that people are tired of waiting and want the rights they are entitled to now. But, sadly, this is a process that will take time.

    Posted by: Laura | May 10, 2012 10:52:11 AM


  6. AG,

    While the Emancipation Proclamation did indeed free some slaves, it did not make slavery illegal, nor did it makes former slaves citizens. It took 3 more years and a Constitutional Amendment to make slavery illegal.

    Gays will not see all of the rights they are due immediately, but this is a step in that direction. The ripples in the pond, if you will.

    I was thrilled to hear the president make his views known yesterday. Not so thrilled that he endorsed it being a states issue. Which it is clearly not.

    I know that people are tired of waiting and want the rights they are entitled to now. But, sadly, this is a process that will take time.

    Posted by: Laura | May 10, 2012 10:52:12 AM


  7. @AG
    Another thing that changed other that Obama liking us...we found that the other side would probably like us dead!

    Posted by: VDUFFORD | May 10, 2012 10:53:43 AM


  8. The Emancipation Proclamation isn't a perfect analogy, but it is true that it was simply that -- a proclamation -- done for reasons far beyond the pursuit of human rights.

    Posted by: Gregoire | May 10, 2012 11:37:54 AM


  9. Sounds like the professor is a bit cynical too. Of course it was calculated. It's politics. It was a risk, but it didn't change too much. Still better than nothing.

    Posted by: Paul R | May 10, 2012 11:40:22 AM


  10. @Naughtylola

    I agree with you 100%.

    Posted by: Chitown kev | May 10, 2012 12:33:20 PM


  11. His motivation really is irrelevant. It's the action that speaks for itself.

    Posted by: Charley | May 10, 2012 1:34:28 PM


  12. "[Marriage] is one of the most conservative institutions in human history," he said. "So it's hard for me to get really enthusiastic about it personally."

    It sounds as tho Herr Professor just might never had found the right man. Either that or he's simply too bohemian to care about equal protection of his relationship under the law. Or maybe he's just another jaded old queen...

    @VDUFFORD: that's news? Haven't we always known that the other side would like us dead?

    Posted by: jim | May 10, 2012 6:27:54 PM


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