After President Obama endorsed marriage equality yesterday, Howard Kurtz called it “a political earthquake that shakes the landscape.” While, in a literal sense, this may have been one person expressing an opinion on one issue, Kurtz’s assessment looks even more accurate now than it did 21 hours ago.
The president’s announcement has clearly caused a ripple on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers who may have been reluctant to speak out on the issue before have started to follow Obama’s lead, and were House Republicans moved quickly to reaffirm support for the Defense of Marriage Act and prohibit same-sex marriages on U.S. military bases.
What’s more, Greg Sargent reports that Obama’s comments also appear to have given a shot in the arm for ENDA’s bipartisan proponents.
A bipartisan group of Senators is going public today with a call for Senate hearings on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would expand the ban against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for all but the smallest private-sector employers, I’m told. […]
Today Dem Senators Jeff Merkley and Bob Casey and GOP Senators Mark Kirk and Susan Collins (who are both Republicans) will release a letter calling on the Senate health and labor committee to hold hearings on ENDA.
ENDA’s prospects are limited so long as a right-wing majority controls the House, but the point is to seize the opportunity, and as Greg put it, “draw attention to the issue in the wake of Obama’s announcement,” using the president’s declaration to “elevate the discussion of gay rights.”
The ripples are also reaching the states – keep an eye on developments in Colorado – and even going international, with activists around the world seizing on the U.S. president’s comments to urge other leaders to follow his example.
Closer to home, a national campaign that wasn’t about the culture war suddenly finds marriage rights on the front burner.
“President Obama has now made the definition of marriage a defining issue in the presidential contest, especially in swing states like Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Nevada,” said Brian S. Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage.
The Obama campaign seems more than comfortable with this, and released this video earlier today, using this issue to reinforce the “forward vs. backward” theme.
If the president’s campaign team is nervous about the political risks associated with embracing marriage equality, they’re hiding it well.
For its part, the Romney campaign is eager to avoid a drawn-out discussion on this. For now, it looks like that may be hard to avoid.