Profiles in courage: Obama’s ‘evolving’ position on marriage equality

By Megan Carpentier
Wednesday, May 9, 2012 12:32 EDT
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Ever since Vice President Joe Biden let the proverbial cat out of the proverbial bag and admitted he thinks Americans should have equal rights regardless of the person they wish to marry, the White House has been batting clean-up: on the one hand, trying to preserve that mythical voter bloc that opposes marriage equality and believes that Obama won’t do anything to legalize it and, on the other, trying to calm pro-equality advocates by telling them he might come out in favor of equal rights after the election.

Makes one rather hopeful for change.

In the meantime, North Carolinians took to the polls yesterday to re-ban same sex marriages in the state at the cost of the rights of even some heterosexual couples in domestic partnerships (in a demonstration of the social conservative movement’s long-standing lack of concern for any couple that doesn’t hew to their particular Weltanschauung about Biblically-appropriate relationships). Though polls still show that half of Americans support the legalization of same sex marriage, it might take actual political leadership to truly turn the tides and get LGBT Americans at least some portion of the equal rights they deserve.

But the closest thing we have to national political leadership on this issue… is Joe Biden, whose comments are widely considered either a gaffe or an effort to push the President further than he’s been willing to go in his “evolution” toward recognizing that Americans who wish to marry partners of the same sex are entitled to the same legal rights enjoyed by straight Americans.

Equal rights are not a “cookie” to be awarded to LGBT Americans and their allies if they help reelect the President, as the “senior Obama advisor” today suggested to the New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza. They’re not something the President might or should “get around to” after he’s reelected. The President seemingly recognized the importance of marriage equality back in 1996, though he ran from that recognition in 2011, and more and more Americans — and, maybe more importantly, 65 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Independents — recognize that in 2012.

And the Administration can tease its press availabilities on the issue all it wants, but the fact of the matter is that the President has had more than three years to just state, out loud and on the record, that he believes that all Americans are entitled to similar rights and privileges regardless of sexual orientation, that who one loves and is loved by should have no bearing on one’s access to the rights accorded by the state to its citizens, let alone do anything about making that a reality. And instead he’s said he’s “evolving” toward some version of that belief.

The Obama’s current campaign slogan is “Forward.” Great. How about instead of standing still or trying to stem the tide on equal rights, let’s move forward. But it’s time to stop all of this winking and nudging on marriage equality (or LGBT rights in general) as more and more of our neighbors and fellow citizens see their rights denied because of the partners to whom they wish to commit their lives. It’s cowardly, it’s craven and it doesn’t give anyone hope, bring anyone change or do anything about moving this country forward.

Megan Carpentier
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.
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