Thursday, May 10, 2012

Marriage equality: President Obama is on the right side of history

Yesterday, in an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts, the President said:  "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." 

Another milestone in the march toward marriage equality and a politically courageous move by the President.

In spite of polls that show the American public coming around to the idea of same sex marriage (a slim majority of Americans are in favor), the President is standing on shaky ground.  The day before the President made his remarks, North Carolina overwhelmingly voted to define marriage as legal only between a man and a woman, effectively banning legal recognition of same sex couples.  North Carolina is a state that the President won by the merest of margins in 2008.  It is deemed a 2012 swing state by most political analysts.  If the North Carolina vote is a true indicator of the President's prospects in November, he just wrote off the Tar Heel state.  What about other swing states like Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Iowa?

For those voters willing to look deeper than jingoistic sound bites, the President has drawn a stark contrast between himself and his opponent, Mitt Romney, in the upcoming election.  Romney has repeatedly changed his positions over the last several years in order to win the support of right-wing ideologues.  Here's what Romney said on the matter, yesterday, after the President made his remarks:  "My view is that marriage itself is between a man and a woman.  This is a very tender and sensitive topic, as are many social issues, but I have the same view that I've had since -- since running for office." Tepid and vague.  And calculated to reassure right-wing zealots without alienating moderates

The battle for marriage equality is no different than the great racial civil rights battles of the 60s; the outcome equally predetermined.  As I've stated before, the 2003 ruling by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, declaring that state's ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional, set in motion an irresistible social landslide that will eventually bury the opposition.  That's how things happen.  

As a happily married heterosexual man with many gay friends and neighbors, I'm encouraged by these latest developments.  Certainly, credit belongs to gay rights activists who have relentlessly pushed the issue.  But credit the President as well. This is a battle he didn't have to join.  The safer course would have been to remain silent on the issue.  The President has taken a principled stand and, in doing so, has undercut his own political support.

They call that leadership.

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