It's nice to know that President Obama is still capable of surprising in a positive way. Today, the day after a rather bad showing for the side of marriage equality proponents in the crucial swing state of North Carolina, President Obama nonetheless came out -- as it were -- for the first time in favor of same sex marriage.
I had been worried that his "evolution" on the matter would not occur until sometime in January of 2013 and that we were going to be subject to some painful evasions of the issue between now and then. But to his great credit, he has made a stand that will serve him well from a historical perspective. How this will translate in the electoral arena remains to be seen. My gut reaction is that it will not change many votes, although it certainly may drive up enthusiasm in certain quarters.
I also hope it will prove helpful with some of the black churches in places like Maryland where there has been some real ugliness shown on the issue.
Anyway, it is something worth celebrating. And I hope that people on our side will give the President due credit for this. It is a genuine act of courage by a politician who is often accused by the left of playing things too safe. This is not one of those instances.
Update: As I suspected there is naturally some liberal quibbling ("libbling?") about the President not having done enough. In this instance it is Dan Savage, Dana Goldstein, and John Cook -- the latter with a particularly jejune post entitled "Obama's Bullshit Gay Marriage Announcement" (Jesus wept) -- all opining that Obama's announcement lacks significance because he indicates that marriage remains a state issue. Cook is especially dismissive, saying the President's endorsement "amounts to much less than meets the eye. He now believes that gay couples should be able to marry. He doesn't believe they have a right to do so." Thus, what Obama has done is actually "a half-assed cowardly cop out." [What a churlish asshole this guy is.]
There are days when being on the left is as enjoyable as having a pitch fork driven into your eyes.
Where to begin? Marriage is in fact traditionally something that is handled at the state level in our system. Obama by himself has little power to change this. At an immediate level there are a couple of approaches he can take. One is to undermine the Defense of Marriage Act, which, among other things, stands as an impediment to lawful same sex marriages being recognized in all states. And hey, what do you know, the Obama Administration has opined that DOMA is unconstitutional and has withdrawn from defending it in the federal courts. Beyond this, arguments on behalf of a constitutional right to same sex marriage are the province of the courts. Only they can decide that the equal protection clause guarantees the right to same sex marriage to all Americans. The second is to appoint judges likely to determine that such a constitutional right exists -- even after LBJ signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, interracial marriage remained unlawful in many states until the Supreme Court's decision in Loving v. Virginia in 1967 -- it was not something that LBJ was able to remedy. (But I guess given how minimal the value of Obama's efforts, that a President Romney would be just as likely to do this.) And lastly, the President can help try and move the culture writ large to recognize the dignity of all Americans and advance the cause of equality. I have faith that he will do this.
Again, I would urge everyone of good will to view this as a pretty monumental day and ignore this naysaying.