Given the present attention on same-sex rights abroad – a host of countries, as ideologically and religiously diverse as the United Kingdom and Bolivia, are actively considering same-sex legislation, and the Indian Supreme Court is currently preparing to decide whether anti-sodomy laws should be struck down – the international press and legal community paid unprecedented attention to the DOMA legal battle.
Speaking to raucous audience on a dreary evening at the University of Cape Town during his Africa tour two weeks ago, Obama made the case that American values – including equal treatment for all people – should continue to be exported abroad. "Now, I know that there are some in Africa who…see America’s support for these values – and say that’s intrusive. Why are you meddling? I know there are those who argue that ideas like democracy and transparency are somehow Western exports. I disagree," he said.
With the U.S. Supreme Court’s relatively progressive position on a highly publicized, hot-button issue like gay rights now at his disposal, Obama can make a far stronger case that the American constitution – as well as the values it supports – is still the international standard for freedom, equality and dignity in the 21st century … even if it was a bit late to the altar.
Drew F. Cohen is a law clerk to the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.