Barack Obama, Democrats, Mitt Romney — May 9, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Why President Obama’s support of marriage equality is a BFD


Nobody puts Barack in a corner

Yesterday I wrote that the issue of same-sex marriage was coming to a crisis for the President, even though he’s running against an opponent who could not be worse on gay marriage — unless he were literally Rick Santorum.

Mitt Romney has called himself “one of the nation’s leading advocates of traditional marriage” and has the embarrassing credentials to back it up. He’s personally funded ads against gay marriage. He’s for a constitutional amendment that would write homophobia in our founding document. Mitt’s even against civil unions, putting him to the right of George W. Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Brown, Mark Kirk and, of course, Dick Cheney.

Today the President announced that he supports same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC News.

The word is the President had planned to announce his support of gay marriage before this year’s Democratic National Convention after discussing the issue with his wife extensively. But Joe Biden’s “gaffe” Sunday sped up the timetable. If so, that makes the VP, the world’s greatest sitcom character. It also makes him personally responsible for a deluge of donations that are sure to start coming into the campaign.

[Note from Chris: this is already happening. Buzzflash reports they received $1 million in donations in just 90 minutes yesterday.]

This is a tremendous victory for the gay and lesbian community who have used their activism to enable this President to make quantum leaps in LGBTQ rights. It’s a classic example of FDR’s famous statement, “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.” And there’s more to be done.

Adam Serwer points out that the President’s stand is marriage equality federalism. This doesn’t mean he’s against a state’s right to make a decision about traditional marriage.

A president endorsing, even as a “personal position,” marriage equality for gays and lesbians is, as Vice President Joe Biden once said, a big fucking deal. But Obama has endorsed marriage equality federalism—not the notion that marriage for gays and lesbians is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution that can never be taken away.

Because Democrats are Democrats, some argue that this isn’t enough. But no one can doubt it’s a remarkable stand to make in an election year. It also does not prevent action on the federal level as Chris Geidner points out.

Obama’s position now is three-fold: (1) he personally supports same-sex marriage; (2) he believes as a policy matter that state, and not federal, law should define marriages, as it always has been in this country; and (3) he believes that there are federal constitutional limitations on those state decisions.

That’s a lot of nuance.

So, remember that’s there’s no nuance on the other side: Mitt has never wavered on his belief that gays and lesbians should be denied the rights of marriage. It’s the one issue he’s been consistent on and this consistency belies the extremism that’s at the heart of his worldview that limits the American dream to a select few.

Though 32 out of the 33 times gay marriage has been on the ballot it has lost, it is still popular with independent voters. The decision to come out and support same-sex marriage was brave, just as campaigning against gay marriage would be. Don’t expect to see Mitt Romney doing that.

[Photo by the great Anne Savage]