Obama comes out in support of same sex marriage (updated)
May 9, 2012

Obama comes out in support of same sex marriage (updated)

Years back, when Barack Obama first told us that his views on gay marriage were "evolving", I predicted that he would support gay marriage before the next election. That day has now come, and Obama has evolved to join his supposedly progressive base by supporting gay marriage.

Good. For the first time, the President of the United States is now publically in support of gay marriage. However, I am still irritated with Obama on this file, largely because of how incrediably political his move is.

During his presidency, Obama has thrown several bones to his base with things like repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell in the military and stopping the justice department's legal defense of the the Defense of Marriage Act. While they were certainly welcomed, these actions seem pale when the President could not come out against the bigoted social policies that prevent gay marriage.

The timing is perfect. North Carolina just passed a constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage and civil unions (including for straight people). Before the move, Obama sent Vice President Joe Biden out in advance to make a personal call for marriage equality which got a round of news. Now after the vote, Obama also comes out in support of marriage equality at the perfect time to paint a contrast with the most egregious aspect of Republican orthodoxy on this file. He will energize his base right before the next election and paint a stark contrast between Democrats and Republicans to which independents (who prefer marriage equality today) can flock to the Democrats on.

However, it is precisely because it is so brilliantly timed politically that it makes me somewhat unwilling to heap praise on Obama. I think he didn't support gay marriage in 2008 because he thought this was best to win that election and supports it now because it is best to win the 2012 election. The reason for the timing now and not, say, three years ago is because he needs new issues to run on and this one was saved in the bank.

I want a President who says something because that is what he believes, a President who fights for what he believes and let the politics be damned. Lead, and the country will follow. Even if the history of major social change has consistently seen Presidents lag behind. Obama has come out on the right side of history, and for that he should be lauded. But he did it for political reasons, there can be no mistake about that.

UPDATE: It looks more now as if this was not the genius political timing I originally thought it was. The Biden comments, he has done before, were not carefully scripted and planned in the West Wing. Obama, despite deciding to come out in support of gay marriage before the election, was thus forced to declare it at this moment. Regardless, the underlying point that at least the timing, if not the action itself, was an inheriently political be and not driven by strength of conviction remains true.

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