It's admirable to see that Al Gore, however quietly, has come out (so to speak) in favor of equal marriage rights for gays. It's also instructive of people's capacity to change.

In 1981, discussing homosexuality, Gore was quoted as saying that, "I think it is wrong," adding, "I don't pretend to understand it, but it is not just another normal optional life style." As a Tennessee congressman running for Senate in 1984, he (rather long-windedly) told The Tennessean "I don't pretend to have an understanding of homosexuality that sustains a discussion of its roots . . . but I do not believe it is simply an accessible alternative that society should affirm." He also said that he would not take campaign contributions from gay groups and opposed anti-discrimination laws that would protect gays (which, by the way, after 30 years of trying, have yet to pass on the federal level).

Perhaps these statements in the 1980's were the cynical panderings of a southern Democrat relying on white male votes, or maybe they truly did reflect Al Gore's actual beliefs about homosexuality at the time. Either would be plausible. Too often, politicians are accused of "flip-flopping" when their change of heart on a particular matter is just that. Al Gore's latest pronouncement is no doubt a sincere testament, and his moral example is one from which many a politician could learn.

--James Kirchick