Much like a friend, who everyone already knew was gay, finally coming out of the closet, Barak Obama, in a carefully orchestrated interview, admitted that his position on gay marriage has finally evolved to a view that it is OK and should be legal. Bully for him, and all that. This is something that is happening to people around the nation (and doubtless around the world for that matter), on a daily basis. So why the hoopla? Oh, right, Obama is the POTUS, so I guess his opinion carries some weight…
His announcement comes at an interesting time, having just ramped up his election year campaigning now that Romney has all but wrapped up the Republican nomination, and with yet another state’s rejection of same-sex marriage via ballot measure happening the previous day.
Speaking of Romney, I’ve been saying for awhile that the election is Obama’s to lose. By that I mean that Republicans are fielding a rather poor group of potential candidates, with Romney being the squishiest of the bunch (I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to, well, read into “squishiest” what they may).
So I thought it would be interesting to think about what this might mean politically for Obama. Perhaps more importantly, the announcement has ramifications beyond the merely political, so I’ll be examining that as well.
The timing of this announcement was carefully planned. Coming so shortly after North Carolina’s ballot measure upholding marriage as being between one man and one woman, this can only be viewed as a political response. Further, being an election year, Obama is drawing a clear line in the sand. Well, as clear a line as can be drawn in sand. His remarks hemmed and hawed, using words like “personally” and “for me” and “I think”. Let’s have a look at exactly what he said.
“At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
Not exactly a resounding endorsement. I’d have much preferred to hear a definitive statement (see “squishiness” above) from the leader of the most powerful nation in the world (or maybe now we’re a close second?), whether or not I agree with him.
So, yes this can only be viewed as political positioning, further amplified by the invitation to stand with him issued mere hours later.
It remains to be seen how much traction this gains as an election issue. We’re still months away from actually casting ballots, and this may all blow over. Or it may become a defining issue, in which case I think it could cause problems for his chances at reelection (more on which in a moment), but it is likely to fall somewhere in between. The key will be how the voting populace views the importance of this issue in the fall.
Recent polls have Romney leading in the area of the economy, which is bound to become one of the defining issues of this election. If the issue of same-sex marriage joins the economy as a top-tier issue, then Obama is likely to have a hard time of it. I’ve already addressed the timing of his announcement with regards to it being political, coming a day after North Carolina’s ballot initiative. Let me remind you that in all 30 states where this has been put before the electorate, the voters have come down on the side of marriage being between one man and one woman. Even in California.
If this is Obama’s election to lose, he seems to be giving it his best shot.
Speaking of North Carolina, the New York Times’ op-ed piece, “Bigotry on the Ballot”, calls out the amendment as “officially sanctioned discrimination,” implying that this is a great wrong. But as Albert Mohler responds in his blog post, discrimination is not, in and of itself, wrong. We discriminate all the time, and the laws of our land are all “officially sanctioned discrimination,” defining what is right and wrong. In fact Obama has (clumsily) drawn his own line of discrimination on the issue of “marriage equality” and he’s done it right through the middle of theLGBT spectrum.
His view is that marriage between two men, or two women, should be legal. But where does that leave the bisexual? If such a person is to be legally allowed to give full expression to his or her sexual preference, then the definition of marriage needs to be modified again to allow for multiple partners (cue the polyamorist/polygamist applause track).
Obama is opening the tent and calling for the camel to stick it’s nose in and look around, even as the people he represents as leader of their nation are trying to stake the beast as far from the tent as they can.
Back to the Times’ op-ed piece, where they opine:
“Opponents of marriage equality have never been able to show any evidence that any harm is caused to heterosexual marriages by granting all American adults the right to marry as they choose – because there is no such evidence.”
As Mohler points out, if they really believe that all American adults should have “the right to marry as they choose” they are really advocating for much more than same-sex marriage – they are inviting the camel to come into the tent and make it his home – see polyamorist/polygamist above.
As for their assertion that no harm is caused heterosexual marriages, perhaps they never read this well researched article, “Beyond Gay Marriage” from the Weekly Standard (August, 2003). After documenting study after study on gay and lesbian couples who have entered into marriage/commitment ceremonies, as well as extensive research into polygamy and polyamory, Stanley Kurtz concludes:
“The core issue here is not homosexuality; it is marriage. Marriage is a critical social institution. Stable families depend on it. Society depends on stable families. Up to now, with all the changes in marriage, the one thing we’ve been sure of is that marriage means monogamy. Gay marriage will break that connection. It will do this by itself, and by leading to polygamy and polyamory. What lies beyond gay marriage is no marriage at all.”
Now Kurtz is no hate-speech spewing homophobe. In fact in the three sentences preceding the above quoted conclusion to his article he states:
“Fair-minded people differ on the matter of homosexuality. I happen to think that sodomy laws should have been repealed (although legislatively). I also believe that our increased social tolerance for homosexuality is generally a good thing.”
No, he came to his conclusion on the basis of well-researched facts and logical reasoning, rather than appeals to emotion. And, as Louis CK so “colorfully” puts it in the just linked BuzzFeed post, it is true that two guys getting married do not have any affect on my marriage. But that is looking at the wrong thing. Gay marriage does not hurt individual marriages, it hurts the institution of marriage (as Kurtz has shown), and therein lies the problem, for when the institution of marriage crumbles, it won’t be long before our society follows suit.
In the end I must agree with Dr. Mohler: this was a sad day for America, and a sad day for marriage.