At this delicate moment in the fight for the freedom to marry, the revelation that President Obama was not telling the truth while running for office and during his first years in the presidency, when he claimed he personally opposed same-sex marriage because he felt “marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman,” is not helpful.
Yes, many assumed Obama’s position was taken for political expediency, but being cleverly disingenuous doesn’t make the side fighting for marriage equality look good; it makes us look deceitful. The story of Obama having “evolved” on this issue was a better model of how we hoped others would shift their views.
Opponents of marriage equality will present this, with some justification, as an act to manipulate the stupid yokels (who cling to their guns and religion). This is not the way to win hearts and minds of those who view marriage equality with suspicion.
More. Obama has denied lying about his views on gay marriage, saying that Axelrod confused the president’s personal views with his policy position, and that his policy position evolved. That’s pretty good spin, even if it doesn’t quite address Obama’s campaign statements that clearly sounded as if he personally opposed same-sex marriage because of the “sanctity” issue.
The truth is surely that if the polls had shown a majority of Americans continuing to oppose gay marriage, Obama would have remained in opposition as well.
Furthermore. Kerry Eleveld writes in Politico:
But the candidate voters witnessed never seemed particularly tortured by his stance. Between 2004 and 2008, Obama stated his opposition to same-sex marriage and his support for one man-one woman marriage repeatedly, robotically, and without flinching on numerous occasions. Few of those pronouncements were quite as spectacular as the one he made in 2008 on Rick Warren’s stage at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” he told Warren’s flock of Evangelicals. “Now, for me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”
The implication was that, in his view, same-sex unions were not holy enough to count as marriages. It wasn’t the statement of a candidate who was squeamish about the consequences of his comments. Rather, it revealed a candidate who was perfectly willing to leverage religious homophobia in his quest for the presidency. In fact, the only hesitation Obama experienced in that moment came from an interruption of excited applause from the crowd.
The president’s loyal LGBT base seems split between two responses: (1) Obama was struggling with the issue for many years and eventually thought it through to the correct conclusion, and (2) Obama, being a smart politician, had to say he opposed same-sex marriage in order to get elected and (eventually) support marriage equality. And the correct answer is (3) Obama followed the polling.
Final word? Via Reason:
It’s not difficult to imagine a pro-choice candidate winning the presidency. But imagine, if you can, a president whose position on abortion “evolves” after the election. Imagine this president advocating that all innocent human life is worth protecting. Imagine that she appoints judges to solidify her new pro-life attitude. And then imagine that the president’s top adviser informs us that the president was a pro-lifer all along. I imagine that would be a pretty big story.
I’m glad Obama has appointed pro-gay-marriage judges. But I can also see why his being duplicitous is so unsettling. It’s reflected in other campaign deceits aimed at wooing the center, including his promises to bridge the partisan divide and to cut the budget deficit by half (a pretense with immense consequences).