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Ruth Marcus
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Friday 9 December 2011
“In the politics of 2011, survival of the fittest does not compel opposition to marriage equality.”

The Good Politics of Gay Marriage

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Now is the time for President Obama to complete his evolution on the subject of same-sex marriage.

Supporting the right of all Americans to marry the person of their choice would be the right thing to do. Strange as this may sound, it might also be good politics.

More to the point, it would not be the almost certainly disastrous political move it would have been even in the last presidential campaign, when none of the major Democratic candidates supported the right to marry.

Flash forward three years to Hillary Clinton’s remarks this week. “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” declared Obama’s chief primary rival and now his secretary of state, echoing her famous declaration, as first lady, about women’s rights. Clinton did not go so far as to endorse same-sex marriage. Yet the arc of her logic bends inexorably in that direction. As Clinton surely knew when she proclaimed that “no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Madame Secretary, recall the joy you experienced at your daughter’s wedding. If she were gay, should she — should you? — have been denied that moment?

The president has been edging ever closer to supporting same-sex marriage but hasn’t taken the plunge. He called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. He refused to defend its constitutionality in court.

He has moved from opposition (“I believe that marriage is the union between a manand a woman,” at pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in 2008) to evolution. “I’m still working on it,” he told ABC News in October.

The president’s most recent opportune moment to make the Darwinian leap came when his attendance at a fundraiser attended by gay Democratsin New York inconveniently coincided with the state’s impending vote on same-sex marriage. New York did the right thing. Obama ducked.

Now, in a memorandum to Democratic consultants and campaign managers, gay rights advocates argue that backing same-sex marriage is not the political poison it was in years past. Indeed, they contend, it could be a political boon — not only with Democrats but with independent voters, some 56 percent of whom approve of same-sex marriage.

Their data? Analysis by Joel Benenson, Obama’s pollster, and Jan van Lohuizen, who served that role for George W. Bush.

“What was once used as a wedge by Republicans to turn out conservatives and put Democrats on the defensive may now have the opposite effect, as growing numbers of voters across the board support the freedom to marry,” says the memo, written by Democratic strategist Doug Hattaway and Evan Wolfson president of Freedom to Marry.

In particular, Hattaway and Wolfson note, “Younger voters, who are critical to Democratic victories in 2012, are highly motivated by candidates who show their support for ending discrimination in the nation’s marriage laws.” Hear that, Mr. President? Younger voters!

Support for same-sex marriage is accelerating; it rose by about one percentage point annually between 1996 and 2009 and shot up another 10 points in the two years since to 53 percent.

As significant: Intensity is on the side of marriage equality. More voters strongly support same-sex marriage than oppose it. And the strongly opposed minority is unlikely to back Democratic candidates no matter what.

Could Obama, accused Kenyan secular socialist redistributor of wealth, safely come out for same-sex marriage months before an election that, even if he wins, promises to be excruciatingly close?

The ordinary rules of the political playbook counsel the more conservative course: Don’t rattle the middle, don’t open up a new front on social issues. The latest ad from Texas Gov. Rick Perry accuses Obama of waging a phantom “war on religion.” Why offer fodder?

And sticking out the presidential neck seems especially risky in the current economic environment, when voters want Obama focused on the economy, not distracted by social engineering.

The understandable instinct of the president and his political advisers is to play it safe. But the data ought to give comfort that Obama would not commit political suicide were he to complete the evolution he clearly knows is inevitable. In the politics of 2011, survival of the fittest does not compel opposition to marriage equality.

And then there is this question for Obama: Mr. President, what better moment will there be? You might lose. A lame-duck proclamation would be lame. If not now, when?

ruthmarcus@washpost.com

© , Washington Post Writers Group


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ABOUT Ruth Marcus

Ruth Marcus is a columnist and editorial writer for The Post, specializing in American politics and domestic policy. Marcus has been with The Post since 1984. She joined the national staff in 1986, covering campaign finance, the Justice Department, the Supreme Court and the White House. From 1999 through 2002, she served as deputy national editor, supervising reporters who covered money and politics, Congress, the Supreme Court, and other national issues. She joined the editorial board in 2003 and began writing a regular column in 2006. A graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007. She lives in Maryland with her husband, Jon Leibowitx, their two daughters, and the world’s cutest dog.

We should have civil marriage

We should have civil marriage for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, getting religion out of it from a legal standpoint. If churches, synagogues, temples etc then wish to bless couples, that is their perogative.

I have a better, and much

I have a better, and much simpler idea. Get the govt out of the marriage business completely. Return it to the religious institution it was for millenia. Then, no one will care what gays do.

What about people who are not

What about people who are not members of religious institutions, whether or not they believe in God? No, legal marriage needs to be a function of the government, and houses of worship can choose which couples to bless. Marriage needs to be mandated by Federal law for both same and opposite-sex couples.

If your solution was accepted, a lot of folks would still care about gay and lesbian people. Many progressive churches and synagogues allow blessings of commitments/marriages. The Unitarian Universalists, Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism, Humanistic Judaism, Conservative Judaism, the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church (which will more likely than not ratify at their next General Convention officially)...

The author has misrepesented

The author has misrepesented the public support of same sex marriage. Whenever the issue is put before the voters, the people vote for traditional marriage. The only way same sex marriage becomes law is through legislatures or the courts.

"June 29, 2011 – A prominent online gay publication has admitted the existence of a little-known but persistent obstacle to legalizing same-sex “marriage”: American voters.

A post on the Queerty blog Monday concluded that President Obama’s silence on gay “marriage” results from a recognition that most American voters oppose it.

“Even LGBT organizers agree that they’d rather pass marriage equality by legislature than at the ballot because at the ballot WE ALWAYS LOSE,” wrote Queerty’s Daniel Villarreal.

“People who oppose the ballot also like saying that if America voted on interracial marriage in the 60s, that still might be illegal too. But is that really our only defense against the ballot argument?” he continued. “If so, it’s no wonder that Obama hasn’t articulated a reason to support marriage that doesn’t fly in the face of the democratic process that had denied us our rights.”

Before New York legislators passed a same-sex “marriage” bill earlier this month, a poll by QEV Analytics found that 57 percent of voters in the state supported marriage as “only” between a man and a woman. The same poll, commissioned by the National Organization for Marriage, found that 59 percent favored putting the question on the ballot instead of leaving it to legislators.

When put to voters, measures to enshrine true marriage into law or a state constitution have won majority approval in all of the 30-plus states where they have been proposed.

Poll data on the issue have been found to be routinely misleading: a September 2008 survey found that lead-up polls on average vastly underestimated actual support for traditional marriage at the voting booth.

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