Cheat Sheet

05.10.12

Obama’s Gay-Marriage Endorsement: Five Great Opinion Reads

Was Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage an audacious show of courage—or a ‘profile in Jell-O'? The Daily Beast rounds up the most provocative opinion pieces on the political fallout.

Obama Lets Go of Fear
Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Beast

While many are quick to point out what is wrong about or missing from President Obama’s announcement, The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan is happy to take the president’s words for what they are. “The interview changes no laws; it has no tangible effect. But it reaffirms for me the integrity of this man we are immensely lucky to have in the White House,” he writes. “Today Obama did more than make a logical step. He let go of fear. He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That’s why we elected him.” Sullivan thinks of all those who will be affected—even if only emotionally—by Obama’s words, and those, like Maurice Sendak, who did not live to “know they have their president on their side.” He believes expressing this position can only help Obama politically: “He will be looking to the future generations as his opponent panders to the past.”

The Devolution of Marriage
The Editors, National Review

The editors at the National Review don’t think President Obama was being honest. “And his dishonesty,” they write, “is not merely a matter of pretending that he has truly changed his mind about marriage, rather than about the politics of marriage,” they write. The editors argue that the Defense of Marriage Act was actually designed to reinforce states’ marriage laws, and by opposing DOMA, Obama is actually contradicting his claim that he wants states to be able to determine their own marriage policies. In reality, they insist, President Obama would prefer all states be required to allow gay marriage. They also reiterate their belief that marriage laws are needed to promote relationships between people who can procreate. “We’ve 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,” they write. “We will not make our society more civilized by detaching one of our central institutions from its civilizing task.”

The Gay-Rights Cause Obama Can Actually Do Something About
Ben Adler, Reuters

OK, but there’s more work to be done, Adler argues at Reuters. The president, he writes, should focus his energy on eradicating employment discrimination for gays and lesbians—which is legal in 29 states, not to mention the five additional states in which discrimination against transgender people is also legal. Adler urges Obama to push for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. While gay marriage could potentially hurt Obama’s reelection efforts, “ENDA, by contrast, is a political winner. Protecting gays from discrimination in the workplace is an easier sell because social moderates can more readily see how sexual orientation has no bearing on one’s ability to do his or her job.” Those seriously opposed to ENDA probably wouldn’t consider voting for Obama regardless, and Romney is being pressured by social conservatives to oppose it—making it in Obama’s interest to corner Romney by supporting it. “If the activist and media pressure that was brought to bear on Obama over gay marriage is applied to Congress over ENDA, the measure could conceivably pass and extend civil-rights law to everyone,” he writes. “That would be a highly evolved outcome.” 

Obama ‘Evolves’ on Marriage
Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Much time has been spent trying to decipher what drove President Obama to come out in favor of gay marriage. Did he cave under the pressure of activists? Did he have no choice but to agree with Joe Biden’s comments from over the weekend? Is he simply pandering to gay-rights supporters? Salon’s Glenn Greenwald says none of this matters. “When it comes to assessing a politician, what matters, at least to me, are actions, not motives,” he writes. “If they do the wrong thing, they should be criticized regardless of motive; conversely, if they do the right thing, they should be credited.” Still, he notes, “none of this mitigates the many horrendous things Obama has done in other areas, nor does it mean he deserves re-election. But just as it’s intellectually corrupted to refuse to criticize him when he deserves it, the same is true of refusing to credit him when he deserves it. Today, he deserves credit.”

Why Now, Mr. President?
Michael Medved, The Daily Beast

By endorsing gay marriage Wednesday, President Obama broke “the first rule of all savvy political strategists: do everything you can to unite your core supporters, while splitting the opposition,” writes The Daily Beast’s Michael Medved. “The administration’s new backing for the redefinition of marriage accomplishes exactly the opposite purpose: uniting Republicans and badly dividing the president’s own base.” Medved argues that Obama’s announcement yesterday was motivated by “a desperate desire to distract attention from economic issues in order to avoid the imminent collapse of his campaign.” Rather than building “a Profile in Courage,” Medved insists that Obama’s new position “suggests a profile in Jell-O.”