There’s something annoying and a tad obnoxious about President Obama’s “evolving” non-position on same-sex marriage. Later today, he may clarify.
In 2008, candidate Obama ran as someone who favored civil unions but not marriage for gays and lesbians. During his term he has done done away with the U.S. military’s way-too-cute Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy on gay soldiers and he announced at one point that his views on full marriage rights were “evolving.”
If you think about the word “evolving,” it suggests that he is on his way to crossing the rubicon to full support. But after a while, leaving yourself in “evolving” status seems like a dodge. Since this is an election, Americans are entitled to know what his policy will be if he wins a second term.
And, since this is an election year and since support for gay marriage varies widely on a state-by-state and voting-bloc-by-voting-bloc basis, it’s impossible to take the politics out of any presidential/candidate-ential utterances on the topic.
For example, North Carolina — a swing state that Obama carried in 2008 and one of the nine states where Obama has begun advertising — voted just yesterday by an overwhelming 61-39 percent to embed a same-sex marriage ban in the state Constitution. The Washington Post notes that about one in six of the top “bundlers” for Obama (those are key fund-raisers who bundle together a lot of contributions) are gay.
As you have probably heard (because everyone’s been talking about it this week), Vice President Joe Biden said on “Meet the Press” Sunday that he is “absolutely comfortable” with full equality for same-sex couples. He didn’t explicitly speak for Obama. Punditland has been guessing whether this was a coordinated rollout of a new administration position or whether Biden just decided to give a fairly candid answer to a direct question.
This morning comes news that Obama will sit down this afternoon with Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” for an interview that will include an update on his evolving thinking. ABC says it will air some excerpts later in the day. They haven’t specified when that might occur, but the ABC evening news (5:30 our time on KSTP Channel 5) would be a likely place to see what Obama said, although it’s quite possible elements of the conversation will leak out during the afternoon.
It should be noted that defining marriage is fundamentally a state issue. At a federal level, the big deal would be the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which establishes that for purposes of federal rights and benefits — for example, the question of whether a gay partner would be treated as a spouse for things like Social Security benefits — only a heterosexual marriage is recognized. But Obama already decided, in February, that his administration would not defend the constitutionality of DOMA in a federal court challenge, another clue as to the direction in which he has been evolving.
Here’s hoping he takes a clear stand on the underlying question.