Bold Move

In a recent interview Barack Obama came out openly in defense of same-sex marriage. From one point of view this is a no-brainer because there can be no moral reason why two people should not get married when they love one another. In addition, from a political perspective there is every reason why the marriage should be recognized, since failure to do so denies the parties the rights of citizenship that other married couples enjoy. Those who are in a tizzy about the destruction of the “sanctity” of marriage are sublimating a homophobia they are reluctant to confront. Heaven knows the world can use more love and less hate. None the less, while Obama knows how to play the political game he also knows that an election is looming on the horizon. Thus, for him to take a stand on an issue such as this is indeed a bold move. Following the interview, he sent around an email explaining his views:

What I’ve come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.

Even at my own dinner table, when I look at Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples, I know it wouldn’t dawn on them that their friends’ parents should be treated differently.

So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.

For a man who has been reluctant to take a positive stand on any issue for fear of offending someone, who has been far too conciliatory during his first years as President, this move raises some interesting questions. The man is a masterful politician, if nothing else. Though he was careful to point out that this is a states’ rights issue, one must wonder why he has chosen to be forthcoming on gay marriage at this time, a few months before a major election. The issue is sure to polarize voters and it could well cost him votes. But it could also bring back many of the younger voters he has assuredly lost as a result of his disappointing failure to deliver on promises to close down Guantanamo and bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. (Eventually, of course, the troops did come home from Iraq, but many of them were reassigned to an expanded war in Afghanistan and the trade-off was a disappointment to many.)  In addition, there has been little in the way of an economic recovery and there are still a great many people out of work. Finally, Obama has been far too friendly with the corporations and weak on the environment to please many of the bright-eyed hopefuls who saw his presidency as a sure sign of better things to come. He has to do something to bring back many of those voters. I suspect this declaration is a calculated risk.

More power to him. Regardless of his motivations, and they are clearly political, it is refreshing to see the man take a stand on a highly controversial issue, indeed, a moral issue, and declare himself boldly in favor of gay marriage. And this in a political climate where successful politicians are masters of the artful dodge, the old soft-shoe. I would love to think it is a sign of things to come and that a second term would see him take more stands on moral high ground when he no longer has to worry about his reelection. This is certainly what people expected from him in the first place.