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Friday, May 18, 2012

Barack Obama and Marriage Equality

Newsweek's characterization of Obama
as "the first gay president" is both
unnecessary hyperbole and
factually misleading.
Recently, President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage. This "evolution" of his views had gay rights activists very vocally supporting him, while conservative activists were just as vocal in opposition. However, I feel there are several key points to be made here. First of all, the timing of Obama's "evolution" to coincide with the passing of Amendment 1 in North Carolina, a key swing state in November's Election seems a bit suspect. Additionally, Obama made another point, almost always overlooked, that this should be "an issue for states to decide". Finally, there is a major candidate in this election who, unlike Obama, believes marriage equality is a Constitutional Right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

More after the jump.

There is a quote on my quotes page from New York State Senator Mark Grisanti which says "A man can be wiser today than yesterday, but there can be no respect for that man if he has failed to do his duty". Grisanti made these statements on the floor of the Senate in the summer of 2011, explaining why he was voting in favor of a bill to legalize gay marriage in the State. Grisanti had previously opposed such a law. I feel it takes more strength to sincerely change your opinions than to blindly stick to them.
NY State Senator Mark Grisanti

Therefore, if Obama's views really have "evolved", I congratulate him wholeheartedly. However, I doubt this is the case. North Carolina is a key swing state in this November's election, and Obama may need to carry it to get re-elected. He therefore needs to appeal to the undecided voters, who we all know are the ones who really decide this election. Although support for gay marriage is lower in North Carolina than in more liberal states, Obama is still winning over a major demographic group by declaring his support for same-sex marriage. This is a major issue in North Carolina right now, so it seems that the President is just taking advantage of it to win votes. It is perfectly acceptable to change your opinions due to new wisdom (as Senator Grisanti did), but it is wrong to change them just to win an election.
Without the "full faith and credit
clause", you couldn't use this
license to drive in Ohio. 

Additionally, President Obama stated that the marriage issue is one for the states to decide. Of course, the mainstream media has decided to completely overlook this fact in their coverage. Essentially, Obama supports the nation's current policy. This would presumably include the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to nullify same-sex marriages performed legally in other states. This is a blatant violation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. As Article IV, Section I states, "Full faith and credit ought to be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state". Therefore, if the public records in New York (where same sex-marriage is legal) show that John and Jack Doe are married, and the Does then move to Texas, then the State of Texas must recognize their marriage record from New York. However, DOMA specifically does not require them to do so.

In fact, under President Obama's views, Amendment 1 would be allowed to stand. After all, North Carolina is a state, so it can do what it wants. How is this "supportive" of gay rights? It's not. Obama may appear to support gay marriage, but he really would just continue the current policy.

However, there is a candidate in this election, one who expects to be on the ballot in all 50 states, who believes gay marriage should be legalized federally. That candidate is former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Johnson is running on the Libertarian Party line and is the Party's most well-known candidate ever. According to Johnson's website, "Government should not impose its values upon marriage. It should allow marriage equality, including gay marriage. It should also protect the rights of religious organizations to follow their beliefs". He also stated during an online town hall on May 1.

"I support marriage equality. I think that it is Constitutionally guaranteed.... It's along the same lines as civil rights.... If left to the states would we still have slavery in some states? Would we still have segregated bathrooms ... or seating on buses? ... I think that the federal government has a role when it comes to the Constitution of the United States, and that marriage equality is one of those Constitutional rights". 

Gary Johnson, the only candidate
who really supports marriage
 It is worth noting that Johnson's positions have also changed somewhat. Until December 16 of last year, Johnson supported "civil unions" for all couples, heterosexual or homosexual, and leaving "marriage" exclusively to religious or secular private institutions. However, Johnson later changed this position to support same-sex marriage. Unlike with Obama's "evolution" however, this was not to gain support. Keep in mind that Johnson was still running as a Republican at the time, so this probably made him even more unpopular. Rather, he simply did so because he felt it would be very time-consuming to change every single mention of the word "marriage" in every law to read "civil union". In other words, it doesn't matter whether the government calls it "marriage" or "civil unions" as long as they use the same term for ALL couples. At no point did Johnson support "marriage" for heterosexual couples but "civil unions" for homosexual couples. That is not marriage equality.

Some would argue that Johnson "has no chance of winning". When enough people adopt that attitude, they are bound to be right. However, Johnson is currently polling at between 6 and 10% nationally. If he gets up to 15% by Labor Day, he will be included in the national debates and he will go even higher. He is also the first ex-Governor to run as a third party since George Wallace in 1968.

Should this be left up to the states?
Of course, any mention of Wallace ought to bring us right back to where we started. Wallace was a firm believer in "states' rights" on virtually every issue, including segregation and "marriage equality". Of course, at that time the latter term referred to interracial marriage, not same-sex marriage. Had Wallace gotten elected and executed his campaign promises, states like Alabama would be permitted to enforce segregation laws and forbid interracial marriage. Is that Constitutionally acceptable? Even the most ardent supporters of the Tenth Amendment today would almost certainly say no. The same standard should apply to same-sex marriage, and Gary Johnson is the only Presidential candidate who will truly deliver equality.


  1. Excellent post and I believe it's spot on on this issue.

  2. Couldn't agree more with what you've written here. Good work!