We’ll have more about today’s historical announcement by the President, but since 3:00pm ET, we’ve seen some very interesting the commentary from around the Internets. Taking a cue from our first excerpted writer, it seems prudent to sample some of that commentary here.
The interview changes no laws; it has no tangible effect. But it reaffirms for me the integrity of this man we are immensely lucky to have in the White House. Obama’s journey on this has been like that of many other Americans, when faced with the actual reality of gay lives and gay relationships. Yes, there was politics in a lot of it. But not all of it…
Today Obama did more than make a logical step. He let go of fear. He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That’s why we elected him. That’s the change we believed in.
With the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the administration’s refusal to defend in court the federal ban on same-sex marriage, and Wednesday’s endorsement of same-sex marriage federalism, Obama is the most pro-LGBT rights president in US history. Nevertheless, the position he articulated today accepts the legitimacy of states like North Carolina subjecting the rights of gays and lesbians to a popular vote.
I suspect that at the end of this national conversation the result will be a good one, and the process, including Obama’s painstakingly slow evolution, will have been a positive experience for the country. Hopefully, it will lead us in a positive direction—which, after all, is the job of a President.
Yeah, I think this is a whole bunch of cynical political theater. The president’s change in position could make some real change in people’s lives, but it certainly could have helped a lot more people four years ago.
It’s unclear whether his larger statement will tackle DOMA more substantively; however, it is the first time a sitting President has said that he thinks same sex couples should be allowed to marry at all, even in the ways currently limited by federal and state law. It’s a start.
I don’t know how this will play among culturally conservative swing voters who are supposedly going to be alienated by it, but I’ll tell you this much: I’m looking forward to finding out. I suspect that when Obama discovers that the political fallout isn’t as fearsome as people said it might be, he’ll ask himself why on earth he dallied so long about it. If and when this issue is revealed to be a no-brainer to the American mainstream, it will have proven a significant political moment, too — a huge victory for the left, which has argued for this for years now.
In at least one crucial way then, Obama’s announcement stops short of a full reversal of policy. In the past, Obama has said that he thinks that “gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections that straight couples already enjoy,” but does not endorse same-sex marriage per se. This is not a coherent position. There simply is no legal category outside of marriage that grants same-sex couples all the rights and legal protections that straight couples enjoy—not civil unions, not domestic partnership arrangements. Only marriage recognized at the federal level and in all fifty states would do that.
At the least, Obama’s stances on gay marriage and immigration will have the effect of accelerating the transformation of the Democratic coalition from what it was to what it is becoming. For the president and his team, this wasn’t quite a moment of burning the bridge behind him to the New Deal coalition-but it’s close.
I think anyone who knows anything about Obama knew this would happen eventually, but assumed he was waiting for after the election. Good on him for coming out with this now. Less impressive the he waited for the social tides to turn before he actually stated his real position, but better late than never.
The statement changes everything because it locks in place for another generation the Brand ID of Democrats as the party of cultural modernity. This Brand ID fits uneasily upon the Democrats, for they are also the party of ethnic minorities and recent immigrants. With the president’s statement, however, the modernists have gained the clear upper hand. Meanwhile on the Republican side of aisle, the cultural modernists keep losing.
It should go without saying that none of this mitigates the many horrendous things Obama has done in other areas, nor does it mean he deserves re-election. But just as it’s intellectually corrupted to refuse to criticize him when he deserves it, the same is true of refusing to credit him when he deserves it. Today, he deserves credit.
So what happens now? Well, not much. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s swing vote in any one of a number of gay marriage cases wending their way through the courts now will probably mean more in the long-term on the question of whether gay people will see their marriages recognized by the federal government. But Obama’s announcement today was a necessary precondition. The Democrats will easily put same-sex marriage into their convention platform. Obama will raise a lot of money overnight, and his campaign will bring out the nets and gather every bit of energy and enthusiasm they can find.
This may be the point when liberals begin to perceive President Obama the way that his campaign does: as a leader, as someone who takes a stand, even a risky one, at a cost.