I could swear I felt the earth shake when he said it. Sen. Clinton even turned her head to look at him and raised an eyebrow perceptibly when he said it. I felt compelled to watch a re-run of the debate to be sure I wasn't dreaming. Not only did he win this crucial "end of the beginning" debate:
Presidential candidate John Edwards at last night's debate at Dartmouth said that he supports DenialOMA repeal.
Okay, so it's not the first time he's said it but the event was so big and so crucial and so het and it was said not in context of a direct "ask" and so matter-of-factly and so clearly stylistically an integral part of a potentially winning campaign tack of I'm-a-straight-up-guy-who-lays-it-on-the-line-in-fully-realized- 'presidential'-style (of the sort that caused Marc Ambinder to comment, "Edwards was Edwards on Centrum Silver: straightforward, confident, clear, knowledgeable, thoroughly encased in his own frame. Yin to the yang of both Obama and Clinton; If you're new to nomination politics, then you'd think Edwards - and not Obama - was Hillary Clinton's main foil. ... Clinton didn't take the punch, but she did move to dodge them, which is a victory for JRE.") that it struck me as a monumental moment.
It was the clearest announcement yet that his wife and adult daughter have gotten through to him about the issue at the level of Edwards' love and knowledge of the law and the meaning of justice under the law -- that it wasn't just campaign rhetoric but a fully realized, internalized, and well-integrated part of Edwards the man.
He could easily have avoided saying it this time, treating us like so many have by limiting his advocacy for our needed justice to preaching to the choir. He's on the record, after all. But he didn't. His was a statement that we were not going to be subjected to a Clintonesque wet-finger-in-the-wind emotional roller coaster ride on a track to worse than nowhere.
Like Clinton, he thinks hard about the consequences of his positions and phrases them with great care. That he did not shy away last night on the toughest part of his stand says more than that he believes it right -- it also says that he's analyzed (using the response to his earlier DOMA repeal statements in less pressure-cooker forums as part of his analysis) that things have changed enough in the last four years that the time is now right, too -- and that may be the most monumental part of it all.
While he still claimed not to support civil marriage equality for same-sex couples, supporting DenialOMA repeal, coupled with his support of equal access to all federal laws where marriage plays a part, leaves his titular non-support of civil marriage equality for same-sex couples just that -- titular -- a matter of mere semantics, not legal substance.
Repeal of DenialOMA is the federal level hingepin. Removing its full-faith-and-credit exemption and the bar on federal recognition of same-sex couples' civil marriages is the whole ball of wax at the federal level, civil marriage itself having always been a state-controlled thing.
The impact of DenialOMA repeal would include federal recognition of not only Massachusetts' and Iowa's residents' civil marriages but also, for federal purposes including taxation, Social Security, passports, consular services, customs and immigration, same-sex couples' marriages solemnized in places like Canada and The Netherlands.
If you're a proponent of equal access to civil marriage for same-sex couples and haven't maxed out yet on contributions to both Edwards and Kucinich, I strongly suggest making as big a dent in the remainder of your legally permissible contributions as you can before October 1, a crucial quarterly financial statement end date that could well make or break these campaigns' abilities to continue to be a force for positive change for you.