It's All Politics
1:46 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

Reaction To Obama's Same-Sex Marriage Suppport: From Sublime To Silly

Originally published on Fri May 11, 2012 10:06 am

(This post has been revised.)

If anything could predictably induce torrents of Internet reaction, it would be a U.S. president making the surprise disclosure that he supports same-sex marriage. And so it has been following President Obama's Wednesday ABC News interview in which he said he personally backs gay marriage.

The response to the president naturally cut across the ideological spectrum. It also ranged from the serious to the ridiculous, like this Tumblr meme "When Obama Endorsed Marriage Equality... We All Partied With GIFs."

Among the most heartfelt responses in support of the president was blogging dynamo Andrew Sullivan's who is gay and advocates forcefully for the rights of LGBT people. He wrote on The Dish:

"I do not know how orchestrated this was; and I do not know how calculated it is. What I know is that, absorbing the news, I was uncharacteristically at a loss for words for a while, didn't know what to write, and, like many Dish readers, there are tears in my eyes.

"So let me simply say: I think of all the gay kids out there who now know they have their president on their side. I think of Maurice Sendak, who just died, whose decades-long relationship was never given the respect it deserved. I think of the centuries and decades in which gay people found it impossible to believe that marriage and inclusion in their own families was possible for them, so crushed were they by the weight of social and religious pressure. I think of all those in the plague years shut out of hospital rooms, thrown out of apartments, written out of wills, treated like human garbage because they loved another human being. I think of Frank Kameny. I think of the gay parents who now feel their president is behind their sacrifices and their love for their children."

Sullivan also provides a useful roundup of Internet reaction to Obama's Wednesday bombshell.

The editors at the National Review Online, opposed to same-sex marriage generally, tartly faulted the president's decision. They relied on the venerable argument that, in their opinion, the only valid underlying basis for legally sanctioned marriage is procreation:

"President Obama is getting credit, even from some critics, for finally being honest and consistent in his position on same-sex marriage now that he has announced his support for it. But he is still being neither honest nor consistent. And his dishonesty is not merely a matter of pretending that he has truly changed his mind about marriage, rather than about the politics of marriage.

"His claim that he believes that states should decide marriage policy is also impossible to credit. One of the purposes of the federal Defense of Marriage Act was to block this scenario: A same-sex couple that resides in a state that does not recognize same-sex unions as marriages goes to a state that does so recognize them, gets married there, returns home, sues in federal court to make the home state recognize the "marriage," and prevails. Obama has long favored the repeal of the act. He does not truly want states to be able to continue to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman...

"... The only good reason to have marriage laws in the first place — to have the state recognize a class of relationships called "marriage" out of all the possible strong bonds that adults can form — is to link erotic desire to the upbringing of the children it can produce.

"We have already gone too far, in both law and culture, in weakening the link between marriage and procreation. To break it altogether would make the institution of marriage unintelligible. What possible governmental interest is there in encouraging long-term commitments with a sexual element, just as such?"

In his column on TownHall.com, Hugh Hewitt, took Obama to task for "leading from behind", as it were.

"President Obama is a thorough-going man of the left obsessed with power and thus in re-election, so his decision Wednesday to declare for same sex marriage is hardly a surprise. The only surprise is that his timing was so nakedly political and reflexive. The president was pushed into declaring his support by his Vice President and his Secretary of Education, and no serious person disputes this.

' "Leading from behind' –the famous White House description of the president's Libya policy retailed by the White House to the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza--now has found its expression in domestic politics.

"Of course Obama was for same sex marriage before he was against it and before he was for it again. He's a weather vane on this issue, and his genuine ideological extremism had led him to support same sex marriage long before Gallup announced days ago it had become a preference among a majority of Americans, but the president had abandoned his earlier support when it became an inconvenient truth for him while running for president."

Writing on the conservative Ricochet blog, Tommy De Seno remarked that while stating his personal view, the president was careful not to state a legal one, such as whether state bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional.

"While the President stated his religious belief/personal wish, he did not clarify his legal position.

"Even when examining his "evolution" on gay marriage in the courtroom it is not clear that his position has actually changed. In the beginning of his Presidency he defended the Defense of Marriage Act. Importantly, his legal briefs used the "rational relationship test," the lowest possible standard for equal protection and the easiest test for the government to pass when limiting an act such as gay marriage.

"In 2011 the administration decided to stop defending two lawsuits challenging DOMA. Note well - there were no briefs filed asserting a different legal standard that would elevate the importance of gay marriage as a civil right nor raise the legal standard government action would have to meet to prohibit gay marriage. Instead the government simply defaulted – didn't show for the fight. That's how one loses a case without committing to a change in legal position.

"As the President said in 2004 his religious beliefs will not "dominate or determine" his political ones. While the President's religious view or personal choice is interesting reading, it isn't important at all versus his indistinct view of government power. That still remains a mystery.

"He is seemingly a "state's rights" adherent on gay marriage, having said also in 2004 that DOMA was unnecessary as the Constitution "does not prevent a state from refusing to recognize a marriage that is contrary to its own marriage laws." That might even explain his decision to stop defending DOMA."

Not all supporters of same-sex marriage found the president's actions laudable. John Cook at Gawker, for instance, weighed Obama's decision in the balance and found it wanting. He made the point, somewhat similar to De Seno, that Obama didn't show much leg, constitutionally speaking, on this one:

"Is it a politically wise dodge? Maybe. This was obviously a hastily arranged interview—we're told that ABC News' Robin Roberts, who is close to Michelle Obama, was only tapped in the last 48 hours by the White House to come down—designed to clean up the mess left by Biden's pro-gay marriage comments in as advantageous way as possible. And for Obama to declare that he considers North Carolina and other states' bans on gay marriage to be unconstitutional would probably energize the GOP base. But those bans are unconstitutional. And anyone who supports their legitimacy—as Obama just did, in no uncertain terms—even if they oppose the policy, is adopting the retrograde position in the contemporary gay marriage debate. Obama is moving backward, not forward."

Meanwhile, the editors at the progressive New Republic gave Obama kudos even as they suggested, correctly, that his wasn't exactly the most potent action a president has ever taken. It wasn't, for instance, the equivalent of Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation, itself criticized for more than a century by many as an entirely inadequate response by the 16th president.

"Yes, it was a few years too late. Yes, his hand was forced by Joe Biden and Arne Duncan. Yes, his statement is just a statement—it does not change any law. And yes, we shouldn't minimize the role of an extraordinary civil rights movement—comprising millions of average Americans, gay and straight—in dragging our country over the past two decades toward the current moment, one where a president could feel politically able to take such a stand. But none of this should minimize the significance of what took place yesterday in Washington. President Obama's endorsement of gay marriage was both substantively important and politically brave. And he deserves enormous credit for it."

There were also many thoughtful comments to be found on numerous web sites, including ours. Here are some that came in on Facebook in reaction to our post headlined: "Obama Gambles On Gay Marriage"

"Sean Keating The fatal flaw in Obama's statement is that it (SS marriage) be left to the states. What manner of chaos ensues when a SS couple is involved in an accident in a state that does not recognize SS marriage, relative to medical decisions, etc.? How does the IRS decide which filing statuses are valid and which are not? We cannot endure a system of law that has 50 different versions and a federal level that has no position to take. States rights are the BANE of a UNITED States of America. Too bad we can't ask Abraham Lincoln to weigh in on the issue."

And:

"Ryan Charles M I love America sometimes.
We've got the 1st amendment, 14th amendment, not to mention inalienable rights set forth. To all the quoters of scripture I'd remind, you've been hollering the same lines to prohibit inter racial and inter religious marriage and re-marriage of the divorced. I get that you don't want me defiling your house of worship with my presence, I do. I don't want to have to subsidize your tax breaks to preach politics from the pulpit either."

And:

"John C Iaria Obama is a desperate man, always outing a finger in the air to check which way the political winds are blowing before taking a position and always leaving room to "evolve". I can't wait to see him gone. Buh-bye! :))"

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