NPR's Sunday Praise and Worship: Comparing Obama on Gays to Other Presidents on Desegregation

On Sunday night’s All Things Considered, NPR weekend anchor Guy Raz brought on regular guest James Fallows (the former Jimmy Carter speechwriter and editor of U.S. News & World Report) for “a look behind the headlines” to put Obama’s gay-marriage proclamation in “context.”

“I know you've been thinking a lot about this in a historical context. So take us back to some comparable moments,” Raz suggested. Fallows predictably compared the gay-marriage interview to desegregation and black opera singer Marian Anderson being allowed to sing at Constitution Hall:

FALLOWS: So there's nothing that is exactly parallel, but it's interesting to see the pattern. I would start in 1939 when the Daughters of the American Revolution had denied permission to the great black American opera singer Marian Anderson to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. [clip of music]

....In 1947 and 1948, President Harry Truman prepared the ground for and then ordered the integration of the armed forces at a time when this was still quite controversial and indeed probably there was more resistance to it than support at the time. [clip of Truman]

....Dwight Eisenhower who personally had been opposed to or skeptical of the Supreme Court ruling ordering school integration nonetheless directed that federal troops go into Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce the integration of Little Rock Central High School, which Governor Faubus of Arkansas and local forces were resisting. [clip of Eisenhower]

....Then last on this list would be in 1965 after the protests and riots and showdowns and bloodshed in Selma, Alabama. President Lyndon Johnson appeared before the Congress to give what's known as his we-shall-overcome speech, saying that this moment had to be the impetus for new civil rights legislation. [clip of Johnson]

This little commentary complete with clips then concluded by firming up the dirt around the idea that homosexual rights and black civil rights are very, very similar, which would strongly imply traditionally religious people are very, very similar to segregationists:

RAZ: Jim, all of these stamps, of course, involved race and not sexuality, and in most cases involved actions that presidents took, things that they decided to do in response. Are they fair comparisons to what President Obama said this past week?

FALLOWS: They're not perfect comparisons, because as you say, the racial struggle of America is more intrinsic to our entire national drama than other struggles for equality. And also, President Obama very markedly did not order any change in policy this past week with his comments. But I think they're similar in a president deciding that there is a change underway in public opinion and he's going to side in favor of a group that at that moment he views as being unfavored and even mistreated.

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