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Obama’s Stand on Marriage Equality

May 9, 2009

Eugene Robinson had a great column in yesterday’s Washington Post calling on Obama to take a stand on marriage equality.  In light of progress in Maine, Vermont and Iowa, he basically calls on Obama to take the leap beyond support for civil unions.

Favoring “civil unions” that accord all the rights and benefits of marriage — but that withhold the word marriage, and with it, I guess, society’s approval — amounts to another dodge. I’m concerned here with the way the law sees the relationship, not the way any particular church or religious leader sees it; that’s for worshipers, clergy and the Almighty to work out. Marriage is not just a sacrament but also a contract, and the contractual aspect is a matter of statute, not scripture…

…I’m not being unrealistic. I know that public acceptance of homosexuality in this country is still far from universal. But attitudes have changed dramatically — more than enough for a popular, progressive president to speak loudly and clearly about a matter of fundamental human and civil rights.

I have always understood the political position he’s in, but the courage of a few small states and the compassion of state legislators who stand up and take a real position has shown real leadership.  I don’t need Obama to stand up front and center on this issue, but standing in the background (or standing at all) would help.  More importantly, he should follow through on his campaign position supporting the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.  This would be a huge push forward for marriage equality.  I think Robinson is dead on that Obama is in the position (popular and progressive) to do this.  Support for same sex marriage has grown tremendously with at least two recent national polls showing that more people support it than oppose (still not a majority, though).  The recent Washington Post poll found that support for marriage equality has jumped significantly.

Most striking is the sharp shift in public opinion on same-sex marriage. Forty-nine percent said it should be legal for gay people to marry, and 46 percent said it should be illegal. About three years ago, a broad majority said such unions should be illegal (58 percent illegal to 36 percent legal).

My take on the moral position in this issue is clear, and I bet that off the record Obama is on the same page.  However, politically, I think it just makes sense to step forward.  The too many things on the plate argument is a valid one, but progress is moving quickly and coming late to the party just makes you one of the crowd, not a leader.

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