Thursday, March 22, 2012

Breaking: Obama May or May Not Endorse Marriage Equality Before Election

Hold onto your hats, boys and girls! There's a 50-50 chance that something might, could, possibly, but not likely, happen and the LGBT acti-verse is all atwitter about it.

The argument rages unabated in the LGBT community as to whether President Obama should finish evolving on marriage equality and make a public endorsement before the November general election. Opinions are split and very passionate on both sides of the debate.

First Lady Michelle Obama didn't help matters much on Monday night when she spoke at a fundraiser in New York, hosted by actor Robert DeNiro at his restaurant in TriBeCa. Mrs. Obama told the $5000 a plate crowd, "And let us not forget what their decisions — the impact those decisions will have on our lives for decades to come -– on our privacy and security, on whether we can speak freely, worship openly, and, yes, love whomever we choose."

Naturally, the gay press has jumped all over the First Lady's words in an effort to glean some clue about the president's evolution.

Enter the inside source. The Washington Blade spoke an anonymous someone who claims to have knowledge of what's happening behind the scenes at he White House. The insider says that discussions are just as heated and divided in the Executive Mansion as they are in the real world. According to the latter day Deep Throat, the president is likely to announce something significantly pro-LGBT before the election, but it may or may not be what impatient activists want to hear.
According to the source, the administration would like to unveil another major pro-LGBT initiative before the November election, and an endorsement of marriage equality could fit the bill. But concerns persist on how an endorsement of same-sex marriage would play in four or five battleground states.
“We’re talking about the Michigans, the Ohios, the Illinois of the world; the real battleground states in which voters are already conflicted and may factor this into their judgment,” the source said.
Moreover, the administration may only want to expend political capital on one measure. It could come down to a choice between an endorsement of marriage equality and something else, such as the executive order requiring federal contractors to have LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies.
“My feeling is you’ll get one, you won’t get both before Election Day,” the source said. “There is a great timidity in terms of their dealing with the gays, right? In many ways, they kind of consider our issues to be the third rail.”
In other words, one of two things could happen. One could blow the president's chances of re-election and the other probably won't.

So what do we make of this? For one thing, from the use of the words,"our issues", the insider is one of us. For another, the administration still sees LGBT issues as problematic, especially during an election year. That's about all we can know for sure.

But that doesn't keep queer politicos from weighing in on the subject.

Jeremy Kennedy, campaign manager for Protect All NC Families, one of the major NGO's leading the fight to defeat North Carolina's Amendment 1, told The Blade, “I think what the president said on Friday specifically on North Carolina was probably more helpful than coming out for same-sex marriage would be for us because this isn't a same-sex marriage fight here. Regardless of whether this amendment passes or fails, it’s not going to change the state of marriage in North Carolina.”

Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry was more adamant, saying, “Americans want their president to show moral leadership and stand up when the freedoms and rights of Americans are at stake.” 

While Wolfson is right, I think he's being shortsighted. As long as the president doesn't officially change his position on marriage equality, Republican conservatives will continue to say that his position on same-sex marriages is the same as theirs. I say let them think so if it means swing voters will support the rest of Obama's policies and help him get re-elected.

We have to accept the fact that Obama coming out with a grand announcement of support for marriage equality before the November election is unlikely.

It seems more likely that the president will continue to try to give us reason to believe that he supports us, by denouncing state anti-marriage equality initiatives, as he did last week and by passing an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT employees of government contractors, which could potentially effect millions of people in a significant way.

Love him or hate him, Barack Obama has done more for the LGBT community than any other U.S. president in history. If any of the Republican candidates win, one of the first things we can expect is a major rollback on all the progress we've made over the last three years. Of course Obama can do more for us, but only if he gets a second term. Why risk that now? It doesn't make sense.

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