Aug 25 2010

President Obama First and foremost, the LGBT struggle is one of the great civil rights movement of our times. Given that, quite honestly, there is simply no logical personal or political reason for President Obama to be against marriage equality. At this stage there can only be two conclusions: that he is a political coward or that he does indeed hold prejudice against LGBT citizens. Nothing else fits at this stage. No one can make any more excuses and no one can justify his position any longer. Looking at the facts, the statistics, the political reality and at the President's current position one can only say "Shame on you, Mr. President. Shame on you."

This weekend two factors forced me to focus on his lack of leadership on this issue. One was a brilliant article in the New Republic by Richard Just entitled simply "Disgrace" and the other was a chart published in The New York Times showing the massive change in support across the country for marriage equality. Combine that with a recent CNN poll that showed 52% of Americans believe now that marriage equality is a Constitutional Right and you see how ridiculous his position has become before the public.

The President should look to his fellow Democrats for courage. Overwhelmingly, Democrats now support marriage equality. If you look at the New York Times Marriage Chart you will see a state by state breakdown on the increasing support for parity. Look at the entire chart and you will see states like West Virginia support for marriage equality has grown in 15 years from 21% to 41%. Seventeen states now support marriage equality by greater than 50%! Another 13 states support it with margins of greater than 40% with most of those above 45%! Of the remaining 20 states, Obama only carried 2 of those states and 12 of those 20 are in the deep South or border states. Can the political facts be any clearer?

Moreover, we can truly say President Obama is now hurting us in our battle for marriage equality. His words can be used by our foes with ease when he gives us his tired mantra: "marriage is between a man and a woman." I can dissect all his statements but the New Republic article by Richard Just lays it out perfectly:

My colleague James Downie has assembled a fascinating timeline of Obama’s statements on gay marriage over the past 14 years, stretching from 1996 to earlier this month, when the White House responded to a judge’s ruling on Prop 8 by reiterating that it opposes same-sex marriage. What the timeline shows is a pattern that can only be described as illogical and cynical. Obama argues that he is against gay marriage while also opposing efforts like Prop 8 that would ban it. He justifies this by saying that state constitutions should not be used to reduce rights. (His exact words: “I am not in favor of gay marriage, but when you’re playing around with constitutions, just to prohibit somebody who cares about another person, it just seems to me that that is not what America is about.”) Obama appears to be saying that it is fine to prohibit gay people from getting married, as long as the vehicle for doing so is not a constitution. Presumably, then, he supports the numerous states that have banned same-sex marriage through other means, without resorting to a constitutional amendment? If so, he might be the only person in the country to occupy this narrow, and frankly absurd, slice of intellectual terrain. Obama has also said he favors civil unions rather than gay marriage because the question of where and how to apply the label “marriage” is a religious one. This argument makes even less sense than his stance on state constitutions, since marriage, for better or for worse, is very much a government matter.

The article concludes with this amazing paragraph. Please read these lines very carefully. The highlighted parts are mine.

But, while he may not realize it, Obama is already leading on gay marriage; he is just leading in the wrong direction. Every time Obama or a surrogate reiterates his position, it reinforces the idea that gay marriage is a bit too scary for the political mainstream. Worse, Obama’s stance seems to be a way of conveying to the country that he knows a lot of people still aren’t completely comfortable admitting gays and lesbians as full participants in American life, and that this is OK because he isn’t either. It is about the most cynical gesture you can imagine from an allegedly liberal leader—and we deserve better. I am speaking to you as an American, Mr. Obama.