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Apparently the Obama Admin. is seriously considering throwing their support to the marriage equality movement, in response to apparently fierce pressure from activists. I do like how this drops the pretense that Obama does anything but favor the issue. Barack Obama’s story on going from being pro- to anti-marriage for two adults of the same gender is about as preposterous as Mitt Romney’s abortion conversion story. Actually, that’s not true–Romney’s opinions on the subject really appear to be complicated and proceed along multiple lines, while Obama’s story that he came to see marriage as more religious in nature and thus should not open to gay people feels calculated to appeal to the perhaps-mythical “independents” that David Plouffe was always obsessing over. What’s more, every single public statement that candidate and then President Obama has made on the subject is exactly what one would expect of a formally pro-equality president. He opposed Prop 8, he opposes the upcoming North Carolina amendment that would ban equality, and he has declined to defend DOMA in court. These are not the actions of someone who opposes marriage equality from religious convictions. They are the actions of someone who believes in it.

So my only question is: why is everyone so keen to push Obama to openly support it? I’m not joking, I’m not being a smart-aleck, I really want to know what it would bring. Sure, having the most powerful man in the world move to support your cause is certainly going to bring some added prestige to it, but while this could make some low-information voters turn their heads a little bit, the activists and plugged-in observers out there already know he almost certainly backs it already.It’s one thing for a prominent politician to change their mind on a key issue, it’s another for that politician who adopt a phony position without never really changing his mind and then admit the position was phony. It’s possible such a thing could make socially conservative black voters move more in the direction of supporting equality, but I don’t know that it’s possible to model or predict such an effect. It isn’t likely to change how Obama conducts himself on these issues, as his actions are indistinguishable from what a politician who supports it would do. Meanwhile, it could undermine the small but real gains the pro-equality side has made among conservative-leaning independents, because as we know, if Obama likes it, conservatives don’t even if they liked it a few minutes ago.

I’m all for pushing public figures to support things that might make their lives more complicated, and as a straight guy I couldn’t speak personally to what it would mean for a president to speak the words. But the amount of effort versus the actual impact of the act don’t quite line up for me. I do believe that this president could use quite a bit of energetic, personal prodding: on the issue of drugs, where his Justice Department has become arguably more punitive and violent than any other president in history; and on civil liberties, on which his administration has shown absolutely no difference from the policies of G. W. Bush. A change in Obama’s attitudes on either of these or any number of other issues would be significant given the president’s authority over the agencies that execute these policies. There is no federal department of marriage.

  1. Metavirus says:

    as a gay american, i don’t care whether obama comes out in support of marriage equality or not. what matters are his actions. the only issue for the feds is whether he is doing things to support DOMA or not. and he’s not: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20035398-503544.html . other things are federal employee same-sex benefits. he supports them http://articles.cnn.com/2010-06-02/us/obama.gay.benefits_1_same-sex-partners-federal-workers-benefits?_s=PM:US

    so i think all the stuff about obama making a statement on the issue is just nonsense. it would probably polarize the issue even more (yes, it’s possible, because everything obama does is equivalent to fellating zombie hitler while giving a reach around to satan) and just lead to more acrimony (yes, also possible). not only that, it could hurt his reelection chances vis a vis idiots independents -- and obviously what we really need in the white house is a mormon republican to help us advance the marriage equality movement, hrm??

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