President Obama has announced his support for same-sex marriage.
How important is this development? How does it change things politically? Culturally? How much of an election issue will it — and should it — be? National Review Online asked the experts.
WILLIAM C. DUNCAN
That the president supports same-sex marriage is not surprising. He and his administration have acted to oppose or undermine marriage laws at every opportunity. This announcement looks more like fessing up than like explaining the end result of soul searching.
It seems unlikely to move the electorate. Voters in California and North Carolina ignored the president’s opposition when approving marriage amendments in their states.
It should be a very significant election issue, though. Legal recognition of same-sex unions has created serious conflicts between religious organizations and individuals and a variety of government entities; and the president has demonstrated willingness (in the context of abortion and contraception) to ride roughshod over religious objections.
The ineluctable logic of marriage redefinition is that men and women are interchangeable, children don’t need either a mother or a father, and those who disagree are either woefully ignorant or (more likely) bigots. By coming clean about his ideological position on marriage, the president has made his attitude clear — the constitutions of 31 states and the statutes of all but six others enshrine atavistic notions about marriage inconsistent with civil-rights guarantees. Voters have seen how the administration treats people it considers discriminators and should be forewarned.
MATTHEW J. FRANCK
The president of the United States cannot run on his record — not on the economy, not on foreign policy. (How many times can he brag about killing Osama bin Laden?) He needs a shot in the arm of hopey-changey, another way to say “Yes we can!” to constituents who know that “No, you didn’t.” In the argot of political scientists, he needs this to be a prospective election, looking forward to sunlit uplands of enlightenment, not a retrospective election, looking back to the grim death of the Obama Recession. I confess the president’s “evolutionary” completion took me by surprise, since I thought he would run the gambit of openly supporting same-sex marriage only if he were either leagues ahead of Romney and it cost nothing, or feeling threatened in a race close enough to risk a lot. He must think the latter, because he is not dumb enough to think the former. So this is a closer election, in the eyes of the Chicago operatives, than I thought. (There was a lot of campaign dough on the line here too, and Chicago will now collect.)