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Obama Says Nay to 'Pray Away the Gay'

16/04/2015 16:09 BST | Updated 16/06/2015 10:59 BST

"Thank Jesus, I'm Cured" said no gay person ever. So it's nice to see Barack Obama condemning the horrendous psychiatric therapies designed to 'repair' gay, lesbian and transgender youth. A leading politician speaking out about an unscientific and damaging set of treatments shouldn't be seen as progress, but it is. Negative attitudes towards homosexuality are still commonplace, and in the land of free speech, often brazenly expressed. Barely a month has passed since a Californian lawyer proposed the Sodomite Suppression Act, under which 'sodomy and buggery' would become punishable by "bullets to the head or by any other convenient method". (A bullet in the head for a bit of bum-fun seems excessive, but I question whether a good spanking would deter these deviants). The country is a messy patchwork of wildly divergent attitudes, reflecting a host of unanswered cultural and constitutional questions, but it's quite clear that things are getting better. America is getting its head straight gay.

Only fifty years ago consensual homosexual activities such as sodomy and brunch were punishable crimes. Federal law now recognises same-sex marriage, and it's legal in over thirty states. In several where it isn't, such as Arkansas, Michigan and Nebraska - a Federal Judge has ruled to strike down the bans (which only remain in place while they appeal the decision). Moreover, until recently there were discrepancies between the privileges afforded to married heterosexual and homosexual couples. A major development came in June 2013 when the Supreme Court removed a key part of the Defence of Marriage Act, and in one stroke of the pen, gay American men became entitled to the same federal benefits as their beaver-loving counterparts. Canadians - get your head out the gutter!

Things are changing fast, and it really isn't that surprising. Many will be blaming the media, but a gay kiss on TV is only a symptom of the cultural shift. There isn't one root cause, but the discussion cannot be had without mentioning the waning fortunes of the most important of American institutions, the Church.

According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, only forty percent of Americans now claim to attend church on a weekly basis (and it turns out that half of these are telling porkies - anyone familiar with Proverbs 12:22 will know that 'lying lips are abomination to the Lord'). Churches are closing fast, over four thousand a year, and many of those which remain open and attended are changing their message. The Presbyterian Church USA recently joined a number of denominations in accepting gay marriage, redefining its definition to "a commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman". They are, of course, in the minority, but their actions can be viewed as an attempt to stay relevant in a rapidly changing climate. And in light of the facts, the sensible money is on the trend continuing.

This all sounds great right? It is, but gay marriage is still illegal in over a quarter of US states, which runs counter to the self-evident truths and unalienable rights found in the Declaration of Independence. During the sixties it was often said that you cannot deny your citizens their civil rights while promoting freedom and democracy abroad. This is as true today as it ever was. A fabulous wind of change is blowing through the States, but there's still some way to go