President Obama Should Quit Being Coy About Marriage Equality
The Obama administration has a pronounced tendency to give off mixed signals on controversial issues for an interminably long time before deciding on a particular policy to implement or a position to champion. This may anger the political enemies of the White House, but it infuriates Obama supporters. The latest iteration of this tendency began last Sunday with Vice President Joe Biden on Meet The Press and continued yesterday with a candid admission by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, with both men stating openly their personal support for civil unions between same sex couples, even though the Obama administration’s official position on this issue remains politically ambiguous. This makes absolutely no sense when the presidential campaign season has just begun in earnest.
If President Obama is not willing to officially come out in support of civil unions for same sex couples, then he needs to leave this issue alone. There is nothing cute about coyness in a grown man. Trial balloons have their place in the political process, but even casual observers of the president over the last three years know that this president is usually so risk averse it is sometimes painful to watch him go through the motions of governing at those hard moments every presidency has. The president needs to stick with what he does best—killing terrorists, reducing deficits, and keeping/getting us out of unnecessary wars.
A better way to send a signal to the North Carolina voters working to defeat Amendment One on today’s ballot, and to the influential gay and lesbian supporters who are raising millions of dollars for the Obama re-election campaign is to recommit to registering a record number of new voters. In the long run, it is an increase in the size of the electorate that will ultimately provide the political muscle to make marriage equality the law of the land. I understand the position the LGBT community is in—if President Obama loses in November, their best chance of getting support from Washington instantly evaporates. But support for marriage equality from the White House, in this particularly hostile political climate, is more likely to stamp this issue “Dead On Arrival” than create any groundswell of support.
And as an African American voter who knows a lot of African American voters, I have to inform the political pundits who are predicting a significant defection of black voters if the president were to come out for marriage equality that they are wrong. Where a presidential candidate stood on gay, lesbian or transgender issues has mattered not one iota over the last three decades I’ve voted.
Political activism may get people invested in politics, and affect urgently needed change, but it comes at the expense of tolerance and healthy democratic norms.