Obama's evolution on the rights of gays to marry has taken him to the only tenable place...the place others went not so long ago to bring to an end the crime of marrying someone of another race. Welcome to the 21st Century.
President Obama made one gutsy call this week in his backing of gay marriage. It was pragmatic, and it was opportune.
It also represents a historic move forward in civil rights and is all the better coming from a man whose parents would not have been allowed to marry in some states only forty years ago due to other civil rights issues.
In interview after interview those who represent the anti-gay-marriage cabal have condemned Obama’s stance as an attempt to alter ‘God’s’ definition of marriage - one man and one woman apparently. A definition that automatically excludes the Muslim God, the Mormon God, and indeed the God of the Old Testament and possibly a few others.
Suffice to say the arguments against gay marriage are based on a ‘Western’ Christian view of life. Not a surprise since the issue is a big deal in the election season of a ‘Western’ Christian country.
Within the President’s lifetime it was still illegal in states like Virginia to marry a person of another race. That definition was changed by a 9-0 Supreme Court ruling and the sky did not fall in. There’s no real reason it can’t be altered further to address other civil rights.
The US Supreme Court has ruled many times that marriage is a fundamental right, that it is a matter of privacy, spirituality and so forth, but never has it ruled that marriage must be between and man and a woman for the purposes of procreation.
That nixes another of the anti gay marriage arguments.
While procreation is certainly the result of many marriages, it is axiomatic that marriage is not required for producing children.
Nor are couples who are too old to have children, or don’t want to have children, or can’t have children barred from getting hitched.
It is also fallacious to claim that children brought up in households with two mothers or two fathers are worse off than those parented by a heterosexual couple. It’s not sexual orientation that does the parenting, its the parents.
Add to that there is no proof that same sex couples marrying has any positive or negative impact on the marriages - or for that matter divorces - of heterosexuals.
Obama’s ‘outing’, after his evolution on the issue will not automatically mean LGBT couples throughout the US can run off to the Registry Office. There is still a painful state-by-state struggle before Americans can put this issue to bed, so to speak.
Obama may be President but legalizing gay marriage is not a federal power.
It is probably true that Obama’s statement was given a bit of a hurry along by Joe Biden’s declaration last weekend that he’s in favour of gay marriage, while the President is “still evolving”.
That evolution is now complete, and it is very difficult to rain on the reasons Obama gave.
He was finally swayed by a number of issues including a realization that his two daughters would not even think that the same-sex parents of their friends would be denied the same rights as the married Obamas; he could not argue legitimately for servicemen and women who put their lives on the line for their countrymen and women (including all bigots - my words not O’s) and yet be denied public affirmation of their loving relationships at the same level as all heterosexual Americans (bigots included again); and he could not stand by while loving gay couples he knew, were treated second class when it comes to getting married.
The only right thing to do is ‘come out’ for them, even if he risks being a little ahead of mainstream American opinion, although polls show more than half Americans are with him on this issue.
There’s an old political saying that its dangerous for a leader to be so far ahead of the band that he/she can’t hear the music. This is not one of those cases.
Will it hurt his re-election chances?
Well it is likely that some who don’t like him will have their feelings vindicated.
However it is equally likely that his move will energise the younger, more tolerant vote as well as his own core supporters who have had a few concerns that some promises dear to the hearts of core liberals have still to be fulfilled - closing Guantanamo for example.
There’s also the possibility that having taken this stance at this stage of the election campaign Obama will have neutered the issue, particularly as Romney is on record as saying he doesn’t mind gay couples adopting.
Well if they are good enough to adopt children, surely they are good enough to be considered capable of providing a strong, healthy environment?
That was certainly more than Romney did for his foreign affairs advisor who was drummed out of the candidate’s team by its ultra-conservative and very powerful backers. The compromise was to keep the openly gay Richard Grenell in the team, but in the closet - pick his brains but deny him speaking rights. Grenell was too classy for that and left them to it, but why did Romney not treat him as a person and stand up for him? Why indeed.
Perhaps Obama will now appeal to the Grenells of the American voting public and the so-called ‘Log Cabin‘ (gay) Republicans. If not inclined to cast a positive vote for Obama, perhaps they will find it impossible to vote against him and just not vote.
Obama’s stance has also spotlighted another Romney issue from his almost secret past. As a ‘prank’ way back in the day Romney and some other high school mates held down a student they presumed was gay so Romney could cut the student’s bleached blonde locks which constituted a look the privileged school bully had decided was just not to be tolerated.
Warning: Romney claims he can’t remember such actions and may well attempt another Etch-a-Sketch moment concerning his gay adoption comments.
Perhaps the last word should be given to New York Mayor Bloomberg (he likes it that way) who called this a “major turning point in the history of American civil rights...(adding) “no American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately have been adopted by the American people - and I have no doubt that this will be no exception”.
It is to be hoped that a continued Obama presidency will give that expansion the impetus it needs rather than the ‘haircut’ the other guy might decide is more appropriate.