Will gay marriage become an issue in the presidential election? [Opinion: The Arena]

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A change of position...

President Obama told ABC News’s Robin Roberts today that his position on same-sex marriage has “evolved,” and that “same-sex couples should be able to get married.”  Moments later, Louisville’s congressman, Rep. John Yarmuth (Dem, Ky. 3rd Dist.) issued a press release in support of the president’s statement:

Yarmuth WDRB 08-23-11_0.jpg“As a strong supporter of marriage equality, I am proud that President Obama has joined the millions of Americans committed to equal rights and fairness for all our citizens,” Yarmuth said. “This is a historic day for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples and their families across our country.”  Yarmuth advocated for the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and is a cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Obama described his thought process as an "evolution" that led him to this decision, and talked about his discussions with gay members of his staff, and his wife and daughters.  "I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that 'don't ask, don't tell' is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, 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," Obama told Roberts in an interview to appear on ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday.

obama gay marriage 2.jpgThis change of position followed closely upon the heels of trial balloons released earlier this week by Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  It comes just a day after the voters of North Carolina voted 61% to 39% to amend their state constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

Critics are saying that this move by candidate Obama is just another cynical attempt by the president to inject yet another distracting social issue into a presidential election campaign that most polls predict will revolve around the nation’s failing economy and the declining opportunities for the labor force.  Having already alienated Catholic Democrats by attempting to force insurance companies to pay for birth control, sterilization procedures, and abortion pills, Obama obviously decided that coming out in favor of same-sex marriages would shore up his liberal base, while having no downside with conservative Christians who would not be supporting him anyway.

As usual with these hot social issues, Obama allowed himself considerable wiggle-room.  The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own.  The pro-LGBT rights web site Gawker has characterized Obama’s “evolved” position as “a half-assed, cowardly cop-out.”

This is similar to Obama’s actions on the Defense of Marriage Act and the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.  The president instructed the Justice Department not to enforce the federal DOMA, but has expended none of his political capital to persuade the congress to repeal the act.  In the case of the military’s DADT policy, he encouraged the Defense Department to abandon this Clinton-era compromise, but has done absolutely nothing to persuade the congress to repeal the provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice which defines homosexual sodomy as a courtmartial offense, punishable by a lengthy prison term and dishonorable discharge.

President Obama - Gay Marriage: 'Gay Couples Should Be Able to Get Married' -

What Obama said during the presidential campaign:

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Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions).  The Arena is read by more people in Louisville than in any other city in America.

About Thomas McAdam
At various times I have been a student, a soldier, a college Political Science teacher, a political campaign treasurer, and legal adviser to Louisville's Police Department and Board of Aldermen. I now practice law and share my political opinions with anyone who will listen.
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