Dan Savage at Savage Love has done a great job recently at tracking President Barack Obama’s stance on marriage equality. It recently made the news that as a candidate for Illinois state Senate in 1996, Obama told Outlines newspaper, in his own handwriting, he supported gay marriage. However, presidential candidate Obama in 2008 was clearly opposed to gay marriage. In the last few months he has suggested there might have been an “evolution” of his position and that he’s now leaning toward supporting gay marriage. But communications director Dan Pfeiffer and spokesman Jay Carney insist Obama up until this point has not supported marriage equality.
Confused? I don’t blame you. I have long suspected Obama’s stance on the issue is a political decision rather than an actual personal belief. I just couldn’t understand how someone who has appointed so many gay people to positions of power in the government, who has allowed hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples, who has worked to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell, and who has shown every other indication of supporting full equal rights for gay Americans could stop short at marriage.
I agree with Savage that it’s likely Obama changed his position in order to win the presidency, and yes, that disappoints me. But Savage asked some thought-provoking questions. If progressives push Obama to support marriage equality before the 2012 election, and he loses, that issue will be blamed for it. Are we willing to let a President Pawlenty or President Bachmann become a reality for the sake of our principles? By the same token, if Obama had supported same-sex marriage in 2008, and lost to John McCain/Sarah Palin on that issue, what would our country look like now? Would the trade-off have been worth it? I don’t know. I fully support marriage for heterosexual and homosexual couples, but the thought of Sarah Palin being vice president right now still makes my skin crawl.
In a perfect world, Obama could express his true beliefs and there would be no political consequences. No one would refuse to vote for Obama next year because of this one stance. However, we all know the world is far from perfect, and Republicans would be using his support for same-sex marriage to raise millions of dollars and drive their base into a frenzy. I’ve had enough of their idea of governing to last me a lifetime. I’d much prefer letting Obama have another four years to move this country forward.