Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
I’ll start with a very 2012 Queer take on Obama, as provided by a reader response poll by Smart Brief:
Some believe adding support for marriage equality to the Democratic party platform this year could complicate efforts to elect Democrats to Congress and re-elect President Obama. Others say that platform language will not affect the party’s candidates and therefore should be added. What’s your view?
If it hurts President Obama’s re-election chances, they should hold off adding the language this year: 48.89%
I don’t believe it will hurt the President or Democratic candidates, so it should be a part of the platform: 29.83?
It should be a part of the platform regardless of political fallout: 16.58%
I’m not sure: 3.25%
I’m not a Democrat or a supporter of President Obama, so I don’t care: 1.45%
A scientific poll it isn’t. But for what it is, those results don’t exactly inspire pushing Mr. Obama to evolve. Which is interesting, since there certainly is some pushing going on.
A part of the “push” is from outside the DC circle. For example, from Keen News:
In a dramatic surprise and major victory for supporters of marriage equality … the Republican-dominated New Hampshire House voted Wednesday (March 21) not to repeal the state’s two-year-old marriage equality law. The vote was 202 to 133. …
More than 100 of the House’s 296 Republicans voted against repeal and a number of them spoke out against the repeal measure on the floor.
Republican legislators, in effect, voting for marriage equality. That’s a “push.”
In North Carolina, Mr. Obama’s campaign released a statement opposing Amendment One (marriage for heterosexuals only). From Pam’s Houseblend:
(Obama’s) campaign obviously ‘did the math’ and decided it was the right thing to do to release a statement opposing it. …
Doing the political math is another indication of being “pushed.”
A direct push recently came from Elizabeth Warren, as reported by Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson:
Elizabeth Warren, who is running to unseat U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), pledged to support a series of pro-LGBT initiatives and called on President Obama to endorse marriage equality … .
This comes as a number of people, including LA Mayor Villaraigosa, chair of the Democratic 2012 convention, back adding marriage equality to the platform. (For more, see earlier posts here and here.) How would it look if the party’s leader doesn’t support it? Less than cohesive. But then, confusion is the norm around Obama and his (in)famous “evolving.” As Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly wrote:
Obama’s Adventures in Wonderland
… With the latest White House comments on the Obamas and marriage equality, all pretense of clarity is gone. …
On Monday, March 19 — and … on more than 20 occasions since September 2011 – first lady Michelle Obama told supporters that the president’s re-election is important because Supreme Court appointees will have an impact on ‘whether we can … love whomever we choose.’ …
… Metro Weekly sought clarification … .
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the comments about love were not about marriage.
Instead, he said, ‘… that (it) is a reference to the president’s position on the Defense of Marriage Act.’
So, DOMA is bad, but marriage equality is … what? In 2008, candidate Obama said he supported civil unions but not marriage equality. Geidner:
Over the course of the president’s three years and two months in office, things have gotten — as Alice would say — ‘curiouser and curiouser.’
As Geidner recounts, in October 2010, Obama reiterated his 2008 position, but added the “evolving” language, later repeated. In February 2011, Attorney General Holder presented the administration’s decision that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, and would no longer be defended. The DOJ has filed briefs around the nation, making that same point. Also happening now: the challenge to Prop 8 and April 4 scheduled arguments in the appeal of DOMA. As Geidner writes, for Obama, “the questions are not going to get easier.”
Zack Ford via Think Progress, referring to Ms. Obama’s words:
The only kind of legal protection that would allow same-sex families ‘to thrive just like any family does’ is marriage … . As Greg Sargent pointed out …, the first lady’s rehtoric (sic) ‘was just vague enough to again underscore the confusion that surrounds the White House’s position on this issue,’ … .
And from John Aravosis:
This is an issue the President can’t get away from by simply remaining vague … . The issue will come to a head this September, when the Democratic party decides whether or not to include marriage equality in the party platform. And no matter what it decides, it will put the President in an awful position if he hasn’t evolved by then.
This last example probably shows both the progress helped along by pressure, as well as the need for more.
Jonathan Capehart, at WaPo, wrote about a recent WH state dinner for British PM David Cameron, calling it a “magical event,” a description that makes me cautious about what’s coming. According to Capehart (himself a guest), he identified “at least two legally married same-sex couples in attendance.”
Towleroad had a post on the same event, providing a list of 22 LGBT guests. And by the way, of the 22, three were women.
Back to Capehart, and the “magical” dinner. He concludes:
Obama is not getting there as fast as many would like. But he’ll get there. Heck, he’s practically there already.
Like the first choice in the poll with which I began, this kind of attitude seems unlikely to help with the ongoing need for “pushing.” Being “practically there” is about as meaningful as would being “practically invited” to a magical WH dinner.