Officially, President Obama and his team have not yet announced their support for same-sex marriage. They appear, however, to be inching closer to shifting positions.
A few weeks ago, the Obama campaign announced its formal opposition to a ballot measure in North Carolina that would ban same-sex marriage. The president doesn’t have a legal say in the matter, but the position nevertheless spoke to a larger truth – if Obama were genuinely and strongly opposed to marriage equality, he wouldn’t oppose the ballot measure.
President Obama’s campaign in Minnesota has issued a statement saying the campaign will oppose the state’s proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
“While the President does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples,” said Kristen Sosanie, spokeswoman for the Obama for America - Minnesota campaign. “That’s what the Minnesota ballot initiative would do – it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples – and that’s why the President does not support it.”
For proponents of marriage equality, announcements like these are no doubt welcome, but the president, his campaign, and his administration are nevertheless facing additional pressure from the left on gay rights, especially when it comes to whether the Democratic Party’s official 2012 platform will declare support for same-sex marriage, as many party officials want.
There’s also the matter of what allowances the LGBT community will be prepared to make in an election-year context. The president has a record he’s prepared to boast about, but there’s still one item that hasn’t been crossed off the community’s wish list.
Obama has successfully repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, expanded federal benefits for the same-sex partners of executive-branch employees, signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, cleared the way for hospital-visitation rights for same-sex couples, lifted the travel/immigration ban on those with HIV/AIDS, ordered the Federal Housing Authority to no longer consider the sexual orientation of applicants on loans, expanded the Census to include the number of people who report being in a same-sex relationship, and directed U.S. agencies abroad to ensure our humanitarian and diplomatic efforts “promote and protect” the rights of gays and lesbians. He’s also endorsed repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and stopped trying to defend DOMA against federal court challenges.
That said, so long as the president’s views on marriage are “evolving,” there are still some who will say the historic progress on gay rights over the last three years isn’t quite enough.
The Obama campaign’s rejection of anti-gay ballot measures is yet another step in the “evolution,” but the fight over platform may yet prove to be a contentious one.