Finally, Barack Obama has “evolved” to support same-sex marriage. However, that’s not really an evolution, but more of a circular journey back to where he once began. Back in 1996, Obama answered a candidate’s questionnaire on same-sex marriage by expressing his support:
“I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
That’s quite unambiguous. Yet within two years, his views were already evolving. By 1998, Obama answered another questionnaire.
Question: Do you believe that the Illinois government should recognize same-sex marriages?
By 2006, Obama was still evolving. This time he supported civil unions in his book The Audacity of Hope.
In opposing California’s Proposition 8 in 2008, Obama made it clear that he thought that civil unions were satisfactory and same-sex marriage was wrong.
“I believe that marriage is between a man and woman and I am not in favor of gay marriage.”
Obviously, this is not the same man who spoke in favor of same-sex marriage in 1996. Yet shortly after expressing his opposition to same-sex marriage in 2008, Obama announced that his views were evolving. That led to this recent pronouncement:
“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.”
Summarizing this evolution takes Obama from a position on same-sex marriage of yes to undecided to no to undecided to yes. This isn’t evolution. This is politics.
In 2008, California’s Proposition 8 barring same-sex marriages would not have passed if socially conservative-minded African Americans had not turned out in droves to support it and vote for Obama. Undoubtedly, Obama faced a similar situation in the late 1990s in Illinois. He needed the support of black churches so he dumped his support of same-sex marriage.
What is surprising is that Obama has now chosen to take a stand in support of same-sex marriage. The general election is just 6 months away. Electorally speaking, this isn’t a smart move.
Perhaps Joe Biden prompted Obama to take a position earlier than he preferred. It is difficult to accept that Obama really had a change of heart just days after his vice-president announced his support for sane-sex marriage. Yet it is also difficult to understand why he had this change before the election. After the election was the expected time for Obama to change his views. For Obama, politics has always been the strongest factor in his support or opposition to same-sex marriage. This time it looks like he finally decided to take a principled stand.
As you can see back in this debate during his 2004 Senate race, Obama’s philosophical foundation for backing civil unions but not same-sex marriage while admitting that sexual orientation is not a choice makes for a less than convincing answer.
In regards to Mitt Romney, his journey is every bit as confusing as Obama’s. In his 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy, Romney wrote a letter to the Log Cabin Republicans that he was going to be further to the left than Kennedy on gay rights:
“I am not unaware of my opponent’s considerable record in the area of civil rights.
“For some voters, it might be enough to simply match my opponent’s record in this area,” he said. “But I believe we can and must do better. If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will.”
Romney, who today calls himself a “severe conservative,” sought to position himself as more liberal than Kennedy. That’s almost unbelievable. Besides Romney, there weren’t many opponents of Kennedy who tried to paint the Senator as too far to the right on any issue.
At that same time, Romney stated his support for “don’t ask, don’t tell” and hoped it would be “the first in a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays’ and lesbians’ being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military.”
Whatever happened to that Romney from the mid-1990s? He sounded like such a reasonable guy.
Since then, Romney has changed his position and moved to the right of Ted Kennedy’s views. Romney has been consistent in not supporting same-sex marriage, but he has jumped around giving contradictory explanations. While he has opposed civil unions that are generally the equivalent of marriage, he once supported them while governor of Massachusetts. Since then, Romney has staked a position in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment. In a recent interview, he appears to be reconsidering or “evolving” that position as well.
In this video, Romney became testy with the reporter when she kept asking him about medical marijuana and then same-sex marriage. Romney’s response: “Aren’t there issues of significance that you’d like to talk about?” He then tried to direct the questions to the economy.
Since when are medical marijuana and same-sex marriage not “issues of significance?” For Romney they aren’t. He knows social issues are a loser for him. He wasn’t conservative enough for the Republican base so Rick Santorum stayed alive long after his campaign should have faded. In the general election, social issues aren’t going to be a winner either. Romney is too conservative for liberals and moderates on those issues.
If you watch the video, be sure to see the last few seconds. After the interview ends, the camera keeps rolling and Romney states that “marriage and marijuana are state issues.” Yet Romney has never called for an end to the federal criminalization of marijuana or even allowing the states to decide about medical marijuana. His comment that marriage is a state issue runs counter to his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment as well.
With Obama finally coming out in favor of same-sex marriage, that issue will emerge as a major one in the campaign. The country is evenly divided. It may cost Obama the election by mobilizing those who oppose same-sex marriage. Of course, it could also energize same-sex marriage supporters and give Obama the edge. It is going to make for some interesting campaigning in the swing states.