Pinpointing Obama's Marriage Strategy: 2012 Wedge Issue

When will President Obama endorse marriage equality?
LZ Granderson's CNN.com column got me thinking, "Could Obama use marriage equality as a wedge issue in the 2012 election?"

by Josh Langdon, e-mail josh@GLUEamerica.org


LZ Granderson wrote an extremely note-worthy column on CNN.com this morning titled: "Obama's dodge on gay marriage: I get it". 

He attended Obama's $1,250-a-plate LGBT fundraiser in New York City last night, and Obama said, "I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal right as everybody else." Many LGBT activists were hoping and strongly demanding that Obama "come out" for marriage equality, but many political strategists think Obama will wait until his second term (if he gets re-elected).

Granderson said:
I wanted to get mad, but I couldn't. I wanted to be hurt, but I wasn't. For a moment I considered joining the small band of hecklers in the crowd during President Obama's speech at a New York fundraiser targeting the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community, but I knew better. 
I know better. And deep down inside, I think even the hecklers know better. That as inspiring as it would have been to hear the president say he supports marriage equality, Thursday night simply was not the right time.
He went on to say that while recent polls show a majority of Americans support marriage equality, the election and campaign is not secure enough for Obama to make that step. He said, "Politically he [Obama] can't afford to do what he didn't do, no matter how bad folks wanted him to do it."

Granderson is correct on most of his points, but I think Obama should not wait until his second term to endorse marriage equality so long as the GOP nominee is not Jon Huntsman. Jon Huntsman has the strongest chance to sway voters away from Obama, especially independent voters who may support gay rights but have important issues they also consider. Huntsman may be a good equilibrium for them because he supports civil unions, the same as Obama. Obama definitely could come out for marriage equality to differentiate himself from Huntsman, but I don't think the benefit would be worth the risk. However, if the nominee is anyone else, Obama should come out for marriage equality and make it a wedge issue.


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See Related Post: Obama: Same-Sex Marriages "Best Addressed By The States"

See Related Post: Christian Post Misleading Headline: Obama Endorses Gay Marriage




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In 2004, George W. Bush proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and ignited conservative voters to win the election over John Kerry. Obama has the opportunity to use the same strategy in the 2012 election over most of the potential GOP nominees.

First, the discourse and attitudes on marriage equality have changed immensely since the 2004 election, with many recent polls showing a majority of Americans support same-sex marriages. Television has seen a surge of popular and powerful gay characters, and people are out and proud at awards shows. Even the NBA did an ad campaign in support of the gay community that ran during the NBA Finals.

See Related Post: The Next Generation, Generation Equality

Next, Obama can show that marriage equality makes sense logistically and economically. There are seven different ways the states currently treat same-sex unions, ranging from full equality to constitutional amendments banning any recognition. The rights that come with the word "marriage" are widely known, but the legal terms "civil union", "domestic partner", and "reciprocal benefits" are confusing and complicated. State workers and laypeople are often unsure of the rights that come with the lesser forms of "marriage" and many couples are still denied their legal rights due to the uncertainty.

Regardless of whether a state recognizes same-sex unions, and because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), no form of "marriage" recognized by any state gives gay and lesbian couples the federal rights of "marriage". Obama is adamant about repealing DOMA, and his administration has stopped defending at least section 3 of DOMA in court.

However, an Obama official recently said, "Although the President believes that this is an issue best addressed by the states, he also firmly believes that committed gay and lesbian couples should receive equal protection under the law." Thus, while we know President Obama supports giving gay couples the "same legal right", we are not sure when he will come out for full marriage equality.

Until then, we know that Obama is constantly "evolving" on marriage equality.





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