One of the pictures above is of slavery, a two-hundred-plus year old American institution with millions of casualties, and the other is of gay marriage. If you're Harvey Fierstein, you probably won't be able to tell the difference. Others won't have much a problem, since they don't have a whole lot in common. Fierstein writes today on The Huffington Post an open letter to President Obama, comparing his views on gay marriage to Abe Lincoln's (early) views on slavery.
Lincoln was always against slavery and was an early opponent of expansion into the western territories. The South feared he'd try to end slavery, which caused states to secede from the Union after his election. Although the Civil War was originally fought simply to preserve the Union, slavery wasn't far from anyone's mind.
Lincoln did become more progressive on his personal views of African-Americans during his Presidency, he hadn't known many before, becoming friendly with Frederick Douglass. He certainly evolved on the issue, but the quote that Fierstein picks at the beginning is cherry-picked and doesn't accurately reflect Lincoln's position on slavery at the time. Although he was a product of the culture, he always abhorred slavery.
Slavery and gay marriage are not similar issues. They don't carry equal moral weight and it's insulting to suggest that they do. Would Mr. Fierstein have used the Holocaust so casually in a weak analogy? Probably not. The gay rights struggle cannot be defined by looking at the end of the slave trade, or even the black civil rights movement. It's it's own movement, existing in it's own place in time. The sooner we stop trying to equate our movements with past ones the better.
President Obama should be for gay marriage. There isn't a single objective argument against it that isn't plain bigotry. We don't need Abe Lincoln to know that.
Crossposted on Ryan J. Davis Blogs. Follow Ryan on Twitter.