Obama's Last Word on Same-Sex Marriage
May 11, 2012
Weighing in on the thorny topic of same-sex marriage, President Barack Obama told ABC News' Robin Roberts that he’s now inclined to support the practice. While his GOP detractors would like to get some mileage from Barack’s change of heart, the president hurt himself politically with conservatives, like GOP presidential nominee former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, that believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. “At a certain point I’ve just concluded, that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Barack told Roberts May 9, stunning the political world. Affirming his support for gay marriage, Obama hurts himself politically, despite the fact a recent Gallup Poll indicated 50% support and 48% opposition. Coming out-of-the-closet declaring his support loses Obama votes in the general election.
In a surprising move, FoxNews anchor Sheppard Smith warned the GOP against making same-sex marriage a campaign issue. Smith knows that most lesbians and gays already support Obama, with crossover Republicans less likely to vote for his second term. “I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” said Romney, staking out a clear contrast with Barack. Smith might be right that the gay marriage issue cuts across the political spectrum, with independents leaning toward Obama. Despite his apparent support, Obama believes it’s more of a state issue, despite the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out Feb 7 Prop 8, California’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage. Obama, a former University of Chicago law professor, knows that the federal courts haven’t been kind to discriminatory practices like same-sex marriage bans. History shows federal courts—including the Supreme Court—support the U.S. Bill of Rights.
Massachusetts was the first state to pass same-sex marriage in 2004, with its High Court ruling that domestic partnerships created a “separate but equal” partnership expressly prohibitied under Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark ruling forcing states to integrate schools. Before the Massachusetts High Court ruling, gay marriage was considered a gender, not a civil rights issue. More recent court rulings have applied the same federal standards to same-sex marriage, namely, treating it as a civil rights issue. That wasn’t the case May 7 when North Carolina's legislature amended the state’s constitution to ban gay marriage. It remains to be seen whether a federal court tosses out the state’s ban. States’ rights advocates, like Romney and other conservatives, argue that the federal government should butt out of state politics. Romney, a member of the Salt Lake City-based Mormon Church, backed the Church’s lobbying in 2008 to pass California’s Prop 8.
In one of the rare events between Mormons and Christian churches, they both agreed to pass Prop 8 in 2008. Salt Lake City poured in about $25 million together with over $20 million from James Dobson’s Colorado Springs-based evangelical “Focus on the Family.". Given his church’s opposition to gay marriage, Romney’s stand raises more questions to the GOP’s first Mormon presidential candidate. Whatever opposition various churches have to gay marriage, they must follow the same federal anti-discrimination laws guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Personal opposition to same-sex marriage is not appropriate. There’s nothing wrong with elected officials holding deep personal views as long as religious and personal beliefs don’t cross the line into political decision-making. Both Obama and Romney need to assert unequivocally their loyalty to the Constitution, not their favorite religious groups.
Considered a divisive issue across the nation, only six states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Washington State, Iowa and Washinton D.C. passed same-sex marriage laws. California’s gay marriage law is pending the go-ahead from the state’s Supreme Court after Prop 8 was officially overturned by the 9th Circuit. Obama’s recent support was welcomed by the liberal Human Rights Campaign. “President Obama’s words today will be celebrated by generations to come,” said Chad Hunter President of HRC. Vice President Biden joined in saying he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage, presenting a sharp contrast with his Republican friends, though Romney hasn’t picked his running mate. When Obama acknowledged his support of same-sex marriage May 8 on ABC News, he cited the military’s 2011 change of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” heralding a more open era about homosexuality and same-sex couples.
Obama’s support of same-sex marriage mirrors changes in American society treating same-sex marriage as a civil right, no longer a “gender issue.” Since the Massachusetts High Court approved gay marriage in 2004, it’s been more difficult for religious organizations to argue against the practice outside the church. Opponents continue to talk of “God’s law” or "the bible" but neither one dictates to the U.S. Supreme Court, only the Constitution. Growing legal precedents in the federal courts indicate that the state can no longer discriminate against same-sex couples with impunity. While it’s true that 30 states passed “defense of marriage laws,” they must deal with the ultimate federal test: Whether bans are Constitutional. If California’s Prop 8 gives any clues, the state can no longer discriminate against same-sex couples. However churches decide to discriminate against same sex-marriage, the state under federal law can no longer take the same liberty.
About the AuthorJohn M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma
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