The Democratic Party is beginning to embrace marriage equality in a significant way. This week, former President Jimmy Carter, a born again Christian who teaches Sunday school and just wrote a new book on the Bible, came out in favor of allowing gays to wed.

“Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality,” said President Carter. “In all of his teachings about multiple things -– he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.”

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the notorious Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that still relegates gay couples to second-class citizenship. But in May 2011, Clinton endorsed marriage equality.

“Our nation’s permanent mission is to form a ‘more perfect union’ — deepening the meaning of freedom, broadening the reach of opportunity, strengthening the bonds of community,” Clinton said. “That mission has inspired and empowered us to extend rights to people previously denied them. Every time we have done that, it has strengthened our nation. Now we should do it again, in New York, with marriage equality. For more than a century, our Statue of Liberty has welcomed all kinds of people from all over the world yearning to be free. In the 21st century, I believe New York’s welcome must include marriage equality.”

While at New York City campaign stops on Monday, Michele Obama said that LGBT people should vote for her husband because Supreme Court appointees will have an affect on “whether we can … love whomever we choose.”

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama is still “evolving” on this issue. Many people believe that he is simply waiting to be reelected before he makes the leap to a full-fledged supporter.

While I would absolutely love for the President to support marriage equality, it is not the end of the world if he waits until a second term. Michele is correct to suggest that the most critical component in securing such rights is ensuring fair-minded judges sit on the Supreme Court. If any one of the current GOP candidates were elected, it would almost guarantee that the high court would include an intolerant majority hostile to LGBT rights.

Even if Obama won and never evolved, nor lifted a finger to help with other LGBT issues, yet offered four years of friendly platitudes, tremendous progress would still occur. It would mean four more years of our families not being attacked from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This would buy enough time for the younger generation of voters to come of age, shifting public opinion decisively and overwhelmingly in our direction.

The alternatives are Rick Santorum who compares homosexuality to “man on dog” sex and the amorphous Mitt Romney who appears to be so craven that he will do virtually anything to please leaders of the extreme right. Such hostility in the oval office could produce major setbacks and create an unfriendly climate that leads to everything from anti-gay legislation to an increase in hate crimes.

And, there is always the possibility that Obama will make history by becoming the first sitting president to support marriage equality. This would produce worldwide headlines and create enormous momentum to an already impressive march toward justice.

Whatever position Obama ultimately takes, this will likely be the last Democratic presidential nominee to get LGBT votes and money without first embracing same-sex marriage. Now that Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter (and even Dick Cheney) are in favor, any future Democrat running for the nomination will look behind the times if they don’t support full civil marriage for same-sex couples.

The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart reported this week that President Obama may be signaling a new direction:

“For a man who maintains that he is “evolving” on the issue of same-sex marriage, President Obama is pretty evolved on the matter already. As a guest at Wednesday’s state dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron, I know of at least two legally married same-sex couples in attendance…The Obama administration has “an unspoken tradition” of “seating a same-sex couple at the table.” The honor went to Chad Griffin and Jerome Fallon….Griffin is the incoming president of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community…”

Marriage equality is more than coming soon. In eights states and the District of Columbia it is already here. Social conservatives promised Americans that the sky would fall. It didn’t, so instead this ugly barrier is falling – with the former Democratic presidents accelerating the pace.