President Obama made clear his support for gay marriage Wednesday, announcing, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
Oops! Those were actually his words in 1996, when he was first quoted as supporting gay marriage. So why is the president being congratulated for taking a stance on marriage equality, when it is identical to his previous stance on marriage equality? Are expectations for Obama so low that when he doesn’t go back on his word, supporters count this as a success?
Perhaps in the wake of the vote in North Carolina on Tuesday, gay marriage supporters were just happy for any good news, no matter how trivial. And indeed, Obama’s 2012 position is better than his 2010 position — that his views on gay marriage were “evolving” — though still not as good as his original 1996 position. But many, including New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, are celebrating the president’s words as history in the making. He wrote: “At a time when it’s often hard to feel anything but cynicism about those who govern us and about government itself, we were just treated to something that looks, to these eyes, like leadership — and maybe even bravery.”
Now for some cynicism: If a politician supports gay marriage, then says his views are evolving, and finally supports gay marriage again, should he be celebrated for it? (Obama might have a worse grasp of what evolution entails than certain Republicans.) Not to mention that his support for gay marriage stops short of actual support, according to the explanation of his views provided by ABC News: “The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own.”
In other words, the president believes that states should not be able to set their own laws with respect to health care, immigration, and drug prohibition … but marriage is up to the states. This is essentially a conservative, or federalist, stance on marriage — apparently the only issue where Obama does not support a robust federal override of states’ rights. How can marriage equality activists possibly be satisfied with that?
Even more ridiculous than claims that this is a huge step forward are claims that this is a courageous and bold political risk. To this point, Frank Bruni wrote: “Hooray for President Obama, who indeed risked something today.”
What risk? About half the country supports gay marriage, as does a majority of independent voters. Gay marriage is supported by liberals, libertarians like myself, and even young conservatives. Many New York Republicans backed gay marriage. So did former Republican and current Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson. A gay conservative group called GOProud exists. Gay marriage is gaining ground every year, in every opinion poll, among every group. Even so, the upcoming election is likely to hinge on economic and foreign policy issues, rather than social ones. Why is Obama’s qualified endorsement politically risky? Continued silence was certainly riskier.
But of course the president’s sycophantic media henchmen don’t see it that way. USA Today went with a fawning headline: “In political gamble, Obama supports gay marriage.” If the newspaper was interested in reporting the truth, it should have simply wrote, “Obama keeps original stance on gay marriage,” or, “Obama on gay marriage: Let other people figure it out,” or, “Obama’s position on marriage identical to Dick Cheney’s.”
It seems that some people cannot be dissuaded from worshiping the president, no matter how vacuously he treats their cause.