Should Pres. Obama Break his Silence on Gay Marriage?
President should stay away from political hot potato during campaign season.
The views expressed in this Op-Ed do not reflect that of the Loop21.
While the presidential election seems to be zoning in on key issues like the economy and health care, there’s one political issue President Barack Obama has not fully taken a stance on: same-sex marriage.
For some time now, the president has gone on record as being personally opposed to same-sex marriage but “evolving” on the issue. While he has yet to evolve his position to an unequivocal yes, President Obama has made political moves that suggests he is finally ready to affirm his support.
To date, the president has spoken out against undertakings to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry in states like New Hampshire, Maine and Washington. After North Carolina voted a ballot measure that would amend its constitution to forbid same-sex marriage, Cameron French, Obama’s state campaign spokesman, said that the president “opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples.”
President Obama also called on the Justice Department to withdraw its support of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal ban on same-sex marriage, declaring it “unconstitutional”--a bold and telling move by the president.
For someone who personally opposes same-sex marriage, the president’s political strokes on the issue, thus far, paints an entirely different picture.
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It is clear that the president remains reluctant to go on record as a solid backer for same-sex marriage, as some believe it could garner dissent from his conservative Democratic base, particularly black religious and independent voters. But poll numbers don’t exactly back that theory.
The country’s support for same-sex marriage is at an all-time high, with 46 percent of polled Americans, and 51 percent of independent voters in favor, according to the Pew Research Center. Though black voters’ support for same-sex marriage has only slightly edged up, its gradual increase shows there is an intelligible shift on this issue.
The argument that the president’s support of gay marriage will somehow obstruct his chances at reelection seems to be a myth — one that is used to dodge the hot potato on marriage equality.
So why hasn’t President Obama broke his silence on an issue he obviously appears to be in support of?
While it is clear the president supports civil unions and same-sex couple benefits, what isn’t clear is whether or not he will push for the legalization of same-sex marriage on a federal level. Nonetheless, President Obama’s public stance on the matter points to the probability of full support in the near future — but proponents will have to wait until after the election season.
The stakes are high and the president’s focus is where it should be: strengthening the economy and gaining a strong political footing in a sure to be bumpy presidential race.
The White House does not seem to be willing to take a chance on whether the president should “evolve” just yet, and quite honestly, it doesn’t matter whether or not he does because he has, in his own politically nuanced way, indicated that he is in full support of the legalization of same-sex marriage. Gay advocates seem to be content with the president’s half-support of marriage equality, evidenced by the Human Rights Campaign’s affirmative response to the president’s vocal opposition to same-sex discrimination, not to mention holding a fundraiser for his campaign.
Ultimately, President Obama declaring a firm stance on same-sex marriage would do little to help the cause, as repealing DOMA would take far more than the few months left until election day. For the president, should he decide to support gay marriage, the battle for marriage equality is one that remains divisive and will be a long, exhaustive tug-of-war with Republican lawmakers and conservative lobbyists.
This is a fight that must be temporarily shelved, for in order to truly get marriage equality, proponents will have to first make sure the right man stays in office.
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