Even though Obama is rather late on this; and even though he maybe hasn’t done as much as possible to advance the same-sex civil rights and equality agenda (ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and ordering federal lawyers to no longer defend the Defence of Marriage Act were important, but a little late); I still think this is worthy of recognition.
The President of the United States endorses same-sex marriage. That is symbolically, historically, politically and culturally, a pretty big thing. Congratulations.
In terms of analysis: support for same-sex marriage has been steadily growing among the US population, and has for some years seen majority support. The Republican Party is putting up a rearguard fight, with their most recent success just yesterday in North Carolina where people voted for an amendment to declare same-sex marriage unconstitutional. In the longer term, they can’t possibly win this (among younger voters support is overwhelming), so this move by Obama is a good one. It will serve as a rallying-point in the coming elections.
The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to “cure” gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?
My view politically is that this will help Obama. He will be looking to the future generations as his opponent panders to the past. The clearer the choice this year the likelier his victory. And after the darkness of last night, this feels like a widening dawn.
[Now], for the first time, the office of the American President is officially supporting a policy that a mere decade ago was deemed truly radical: same-sex marriage. Those are real achievements. And, as virtually all polls reflect – underscored by last night’s landslide defeat for marriage equality in North Carolina — they carry genuine political risk. He deserves credit for his actions in this civil rights realm.
It should go without saying that none of this mitigates the many horrendous things Obama has done in other areas, nor does it mean he deserves re-election. But just as it’s intellectually corrupted to refuse to criticize him when he deserves it, the same is true of refusing to credit him when he deserves it. Today, he deserves credit. LGBT equality is one area — and it’s an important area for millions of Americans — where he has conducted himself commendably and deserves praise. That was true before today, but even more so now.
David Frum (a former Bush speechwriter):
The statement changes everything because it powerfully symbolizes an awakening that so many people have had, myself included: here is a social change whose time has come, and more than come. Denying marriage rights to same-sex couples inflicts real harm on real people, while doing nothing to prevent the deterioration of marriage among non-affluent Americans.
The statement changes everything because it puts marriage rights on the 2012 ballot as a voting issue. Mitt Romney has declared—not only his opposition to same-sex marriage—but his intention to use the power of the presidency to stop and reverse it. One may doubt how intensely Romney feels about that commitment, really. My own guess: about 1/1000 as intensely as he feels about Sarbanes-Oxley. But the issue is joined even so.