The telltale signs were there, but it took Obama a while to declare
WELL. So Barack Obama's finally come out. Thank god for that.
Watching the man's exaggerated nonchalance in the face of the gay marriage issue has been as sweetly awkward as watching a 28-year-old Harvard graduate pretend to his Jewish parents that handsome, buff Conrad is just a room-mate, and nothing more.
Like any slim, neat man with a Big Announcement to make, the US President prepared his ground carefully in advance.
Barack Obama. Photo: AFP
He revealed himself to be a consumer of arugula.
He confessed to enjoying the music of Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin.
He waited for his grandmother to die.
He sang and danced on national television - on one occasion with Ellen DeGeneres, otherwise known as Mrs Portia de Rossi.
He repealed ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell'', that creepy 20-year US law in which gays and lesbians were allowed to serve in the military, so long as they kept it in their pants.
Not that that meant he was pro gay marriage, or anything like that.
He revealed that he had staff and friends who were in happy same-sex relationships. Not that that made him pro gay marriage, or anything.
And then, several days ago, he called in Robin Roberts of ABC News for a special interview, in which he finally made his confession - actually, he's pro gay marriage.
Roberts, one hopes, was polite enough to act surprised.
So there it is. The President of the United States is a big old screaming gay-marriage supporter.
The reaction's been pretty routine. Lots of people are happy for him. Lots of people are worried that he's normalising an arrangement frowned on by God, or taking ''alternative lifestyles'' and ramming them down people's throats. Others fret that his children may be teased at school.
But at least - thank goodness - it's finally over.
Why do politicians freak out so about gay marriage? Ask one their views on the topic, and in most cases what you end up with is a complicated lecture about demographics and polling stats and the extent to which the electorate will tolerate reform and hidden trends and whether people tell the truth when they're telephoned by pollsters during dinner.
Those who privately support gay marriage are not always confident about saying so.
Their nervousness - to an almost comical degree - is exactly the nervousness of a gay person coming out. ''What will people think of me? Will that churchy family down the road think I'm scum? What if I announce that I'm pro gay marriage and then when people look at me after that, that's all they see?''
I'm not suggesting for a minute that all politicians are latent gay-marriage supporters just looking for a seemly moment to edge out of the closet. Far from it. It's just that I find remarkably few whose views are based entirely on their own self-examination and personal judgment about what's right, rather than a series of assumptions as to what their constituents want, or believe, or would object to strongly enough to make it their primary motivation at the ballot box.
This, more than anything else, is an issue on which politicians need to consult themselves. Not a room of 15 swinging voters moodily consuming Jatz crackers in Parramatta. Not a national phone poll of 1500 people.
At heart, it's a confronting but simple question: Could you look at your neighbour, or your workmate, or your sister, or - in the fullness of time - at your child, and tell them that your recognition of their love and commitment will depend on the equipment of the person they've chosen?
That's the question for politicians, when push comes to shove. Not ''Are the 57 per cent of people who told Nielsen they supported gay marriage actually telling the truth?'' or ''Aren't we distracting from our core economic message by even talking about this?''
Or any of the other questions which tend to cluster around.
Like, ''Wouldn't God disapprove of an amendment to the Marriage Act?'' (God is notoriously tricky to pin down on this stuff. If He didn't want gay people to fall in love with each other, why did He make them that way? Is this the point at which the theological argument for God's existence breaks down, or does He part-own the Diana Ross back catalogue or something?)
Or, ''Won't children with two mums or two dads feel embarrassed at school?''
(Answer: Yes. They will feel embarrassed at school. Just like every single child at every single school feels embarrassed about every single parent, including you, Senator High-Pants. It's in the brochure.)
Here's a better question: Are we so overburdened with happiness in this world that we can knock back a small percentage of the population who are keen to generate extra supplies of it by pledging themselves to each other? It's a simple question, really. To which the answer is either ''Yes'', or ''No''.
■ Annabel Crabb writes for ABC Online's The Drum, at abc.net.au/thedrum and tweets as @annabelcrabb