The president’s bold support shifted the mainstream. Andrew Sullivan on why it shouldn't be surprising—Obama’s life as a biracial man has deep ties to the gay experience.
Activists collect enough signatures to halt law.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a law earlier this year allowing same-sex couples to marry, but opponents of the measure have collected enough signatures to stop it from taking effect. Preserve Marriage Washington submitted about 240,000 signatures to state officials, who will review whether there are enough valid signatures to send the issue for a public vote. Washington’s secretary of state suggests that activists collect about 150,000 signatures to have a cushion, so it appears the issue will make it onto the ballot easily.
LGBT activists and conservatives are sparring over a new study that says children of married straight parents have better lives than those with gay parents. But its flaws mean it’s unlikely to shift the debate over gay parenting, says David Sessions.
A blockbuster new study that claims to upend the conventional wisdom on gay parenting has quickly become a political lightning rod, with LGBT political groups denouncing it and social scientists and bloggers attacking its lead researcher and his methodology.
Markus Moellenberg / Corbis
Conservative pundits are also taking notice of the study, which is based on surveys of thousands of Americans and purports to show that those who have parents in same-sex relationships face negative long-term consequences in employment, relationship stability, and mental health. The pundits suggest it might bolster their opposition to gay marriage, provoking concern from LGBT activists, who warn that it’s an attempt to “disparage lesbian and gay parents” and exactly the sort of slanted research that plays into the hands of the Christian right. They’re right about that, but a closer look at the study’s limited scope, not to mention its obvious methodological weaknesses, suggests it won’t move the debate on gay parenthood very much. And thanks to its unusually large and diverse sample, some social scientists are saying it provides valuable data despite its author’s questionable analysis.
One look at the circumstances of the New Family Structures Study makes clear the reasons for LGBT alarm. The project was led by Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas known for attention-grabbing research that sometimes seems to tack along the narratives of social conservatives seeking to roll back the sexual revolution. A former professor at the evangelical Calvin College, Regnerus wrote a cover story for Christianity Today arguing that Christians should encourage their children to marry young; he also wrote a piece for Slate arguing that the sexual revolution has produced bitter fruit for women. (Both were based on research published in his books.) Regnerus’s same-sex-parenting study was funded, at a price tag of three-quarters of a million dollars—an enormous sum in social science—by two socially conservative groups: the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation.
With such a background, the study’s agenda may seem obvious. But leanings of its funders do not necessarily affect its conclusions, and Regnerus’s work is typically taken seriously by mainstream media outlets. The data he was able to collect make this study the kind of study social scientists dream of doing; its large, random national sample earned praise from the three commenters whose remarks appear along with Regnerus’s overview in the July issue of Social Science Research. All three hail the study’s raw data as an advance over previous studies of gay parenting, which used samples that were small and usually nonrandom.
The praise, though, came with qualification: one commenter, David J. Eggebeen of Penn State, wrote that Regnerus’s data are “still far from ideal.” And Regnerus’s conclusions and other possible extrapolations of the data attracted far more criticism from the commenters, as well as other social scientists who have spoken out about the study.
In questionnaires filled out between 1971 and 1994, the study asked 15,000 18- to 49-year-olds if either of their parents had ever been in a same-sex relationship. Respondents who reported a parent in a same-sex relationship were sorted into GF (gay father) or LM (lesbian mother) categories and measured against other respondents’ outcomes, including those in “intact biological parent” families, in personal and social well-being. Very few of the respondents with gay parents lived in a two-gay-parent household; almost all of them came from broken homes of gay parents who had been married to a straight spouse or, more surprisingly, an opposite-sex gay spouse. Not surprisingly, since they came from families that had experienced upheaval, the children with gay parents were more likely to be unemployed, more likely to cheat on their spouse or partner, and more likely to be in psychological treatment for depression or anxiety.
That’s the study’s most obvious flaw: it doesn’t compare intact, two-parent gay families with similar two-parent straight families. On the contrary, the way Regnerus categorized the children of gay families ensures that they will be wildly incongruous with the straight families. Social scientists and science writers have picked apart other aspects of the study’s methodology, including its basing the categorizations of same-sex parents solely on respondents’ reports that their parent had a gay relationship of some kind and duration during their childhood. Some of the respondents fell into several categories, and to make his data workable, Regnerus had to put some respondents into the “gay father” or “lesbian mother” category when they could have fit into several of his other categories. In his words, he had to “force [categories’] mutual exclusivity for analytic purposes.” As Jim Burroway of the website Box Turtle Bulletin argues, that decision is understandable, but it suggests a weakness of data and ultimately undermines the stated goal of the study.
This week’s court decision striking down DOMA was no accident: the gay movement has become the most successful civil-rights undertaking in American history.
This week, the federal appeals court in Massachusetts unanimously ruled that part of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. Gill v. OPM is a remarkable ruling, but perhaps as important as the decision is its timing: the court struck down a law of Congress a mere 16 years after it was passed.
Demonstrators march, calling for an end to discrimination and what they feel are repressive laws, in front of New York City Hall in June 1970. Members of the Gay Activists Alliance sponsored the demonstration. (Eddie Adams / AP Photo )
Certainly no one ever thought of challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996! What happened?
What the Los Angeles Times recently called “the Fastest of All Civil Rights Movements” happened. And the paper wrote that headline before the First Circuit ruled. Maybe something about the president of the United States endorsing same-sex marriage inspired the L.A. Times to note the speed of the social change.
As progressive movements of every stripe falter and grind to a halt—who’s occupying Occupy Wall Street these days?—it pays to pay attention to how the gay movement broke the spell of right-wing triumph and progressive tragedy.
First, the movement acted locally. Local action is a gay tradition. In 1953 the Mattachine Society, the first modern gay organization in the country had the effrontery to send a questionnaire to all the candidates for the Los Angeles City Council, demanding to know their position on issues like police harassment. After Stonewall, the Gay Activists Alliance opened the modern gay movement by attacking the mayor of New York, John Lindsay, whose police had triggered the Stonewall uprising in the first place. They asked their hometown, New York, to pass a law barring discrimination against them. Gay activism has always worked from the cities and hospitable states outward. National initiatives, by contrast, were seen as losing propositions, and when undertaken, they usually did lose.
So the gay-marriage movement undertook a self-conscious strategy to start to legalize marriage more locally, in states like Massachusetts, where they had already gained traction. When the Massachusetts Supreme Court became the first in the country to legalize same-sex marriage, it was not an accident: the smart folks at the gay-movement legal organizations like Lambda Legal and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders had seen that gay and lesbian people had gained most of the rights of citizenship in Massachusetts already.
In fact, it was the early success of another local effort on gay marriage that led to the federal DOMA to begin with. In the early 1990s, the Hawaii state courts ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, terrifying the homophobes in Congress with the prospect that the gay go-local strategy on marriage might take hold. (State referendums later overturned those decisions.) So they passed the DOMA to stop the federal government from recognizing state law on marriage. It was an unusual step—a first, in fact—to involve the federal government in what had always been state prerogative. The First Circuit rightly concluded that Congress was acting weirdly when it passed the DOMA and that something ugly, like a pure dislike of a vulnerable minority, must have been driving the legislation. Given the federal structure of the United States, in which decisions about things like marriage are overwhelmingly governed by the states, the gay act-local strategy worked perfectly.
In vote Saturday.
Obama’s public endorsement of gay marriage has continued to spawn imitators. The board of directors of the leading civil-rights organization, the NAACP, voted Saturday to endorse same-sex marriage, citing the American value of equality for all. “Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law,” NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement. “The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people.” The public move could further solidify the already stong black vote behind President Obama in the upcoming election.
The state’s civil unions bill died this week, and a GOP lawmaker with a gay son was the deciding vote. But gay politicians tell Allison Yarrow the uproar over the bill will energize voters in November.
Ranchers, farmers and other conservative customers filed into the Coffee Trader in Montrose, Colo., this week for their regular cups, but also to apologize to its 44-year-old owner, Dee Coram. Not only had Colorado legislators killed a bill Monday that would have allowed civil unions, but Republican Rep. Don Coram, Dee’s father, cast the deciding vote.
“He told me, ‘I will be a no,’” said Coram, whose father called himself “the proud father of a gay son” on the state house floor before making his vote. “I can’t get inside his head. I don’t know why he did it. I can’t speak for why he brought me into it. The fact of the matter is he did.” The 5-4 vote, the younger Coram added, has taken “more of an emotional toll on him than myself.”
About 62 percent of Coloradoans favored the civil unions bill, and 53 percent support same-sex marriage, according to a recent poll. Stakeholders on both sides thought the bill had partisan support after Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper called a special session.
Hickenlooper himself was such a loud proponent that he had vowed to pass such legislation in his State of the State address in January. The timing seemed optimal, after President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage the week before. But Rep. Coram, vice chairman of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, doubled down on what he had told his son.
Colorado Democrats blamed Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty for kicking the bill to the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee rather than bringing it to the floor for a House vote, calling his actions “bizarre,” “shenanigans,” and an “abuse of power.”
Hickenlooper voiced his displeasure about the nontraditional procedure in a statement on his website: “With the exception of civil unions, each of the bills we put on the special session call received an open debate and a final vote just like they deserved.”
McNulty stood by the move, telling a crowd outside the Capitol: “Go back to your communities, neighborhoods, churches and let them know that the fight continues, and that we will continue it today, through the next legislative session and every time that marriage is attacked.”
Jared Polis, Kyrsten Sinema and Richard Tisei weigh in on Obama's endorsement of marriage equality. (Getty Images (2); AP Photo (2))
GOP says Democrats trying to play politics.
A bill that would have allowed same-sex couples equal rights as married couples was killed on Monday night in a special legislative session. Although the bill had been likely to pass the state’s House of Representatives, Republicans rejected it, claiming the Democrats are trying to use it as an issue before the November elections. The bill went to the special committee known as the “kill committee”—because its members are in safe seats and can kill any bill they wish—on Monday morning by the GOP leadership. Republican state Rep. Don Coram, whose son is gay, voted against the bill, citing a 2006 vote by Coloradans to ban same-sex marriage, and he also said he believed Democrats are “playing politics” with gay marriage.
Nervous pundits feared that backing same-sex marriage would hurt the president. But John Aravosis says his community gave Obama a chance to show courage—and brought him closer to winning in November.
“Black voters will freak.”
Rhonda Otten, left, and Debra Curtis of Montclair, N.J., in front of a backdrop of New York's City Hall before their marriage ceremony at the City Clerk's office in New York, July 24, 2011. (Craig Ruttle / AP Photo)
That’s what the chattering class kept warning those of us pushing President Obama to endorse same-sex marriage. He’ll lose the black vote and energize evangelicals all the way to defeat this November, they told us. And, of course, it would be the fault of the gay community for making such an unreasonable demand.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to the Alamo.
Obama came out in favor of gay marriage and the black community gave a collective shrug.
In a just-released poll by Pew Research (PDF), 49 percent of whites surveyed said the president’s embrace of marriage equality did not alter their opinion of him. And among African-Americans, the number soared to 68 percent (with 16 percent saying it made them view Obama more favorably, and only 13 percent claiming less).
So while African-Americans may not support same-sex marriage to the same degree as whites (depending on the survey, black support tends to be in the low 40s), they still like Barack Obama. And no one should be surprised—the president did win 96 percent of the black vote in the last election.
So much for the notion that we should be feeling guilty.
In an open letter, the Rev. Otis Moss III urges African-Americans not to stay home in November or pull support for Obama because of his support for gay marriage—because the Constitution protects everyone and the civil-rights struggle demands they vote.
Reaction from African-Americans to President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage continues to be mixed, with some black ministers across the country openly criticizing the president this past Sunday, and threatening to vote Republican, or not all, in November.
AP Photo; Getty Images
But from the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, the Rev. Otis Moss III challenged that stance. He read an open letter to his congregation on same-sex marriage, and what the Bible teaches about Christian love. His letter targeted those in the black clergy and community who’ve decided this one issue alone will determine their support the second time around for the nation’s first African-American president.
Here is Moss’s letter:
Tell your brethren who are part of your ministerial coalition to “live their faith and not legislate their faith” for the Constitution is designed to protect the rights of all. We must learn to be more than a one-issue community and seek the beloved community where we may not all agree, but we all recognize the fingerprint of the Divine upon all of humanity.
There is no doubt people who are same-gender-loving who occupy prominent places in the body of Christ. For the clergy to hide from true dialogue with quick dismissive claims devised from poor biblical scholarship is as sinful as unthoughtful acceptance of a theological position. When we make biblical claims without sound interpretation we run the risk of adopting a doctrinal position of deep conviction but devoid of love. Deep faith may resonate in our position, but it is the ethic of love that forces us to prayerfully reexamine our position.
The question I believe we should pose to our congregations is, “Should all Americans have the same civil rights?” This is a radically different question than the one you raised with the ministers, “Does the church have the right to perform or not perform certain religious rites.” There is difference between rights and rites. We should never misconstrue rights designed to protect diverse individuals in a pluralistic society versus religious rites designed by faith communities to communicate a theological or doctrinal perspective. These two questions are answered in two fundamentally different arenas. One is answered in the arena of civic debate where the Constitution is the document of authority. The other is answered in the realm of ecclesiastical councils where theology, conscience and biblical mandates are the guiding ethos. I do not believe ecclesiastical councils are equipped to shape civic legislation nor are civic representatives equipped to shape religious rituals and doctrine.
The Netherlands passed laws allowing gays to wed in 2001. Since then much has changed. Nadette De Visser reports on the lessons.
The Dutch, who legalized same-sex marriages more than a decade ago, have a little advice to offer President Barack Obama, in the wake of his announcement that he, too, supports such a measure.
Patrick Decker of the U.S., left, and his Dutch partner, Stephan Hengst, during a wedding ceremony on a boat at the Gay Pride canal parade in Amsterdam, Aug. 1, 2009. (Bas Czerwinski / AP Photo)
For one thing: the passage of time wears on most controversial decisions, even if resistance remains. And secondly: persist!
In 2001 the first same-sex marriages in the Netherlands were celebrated with great fanfare and publicity. At ceremonies people would pass out favors of small Delft-blue porcelain figurines. But rather than the usual depiction of a boy and a girl, kissing, these figurines showed a Dutch boy kissing a Dutch boy and a Dutch girl kissing a Dutch girl.
In that first year, too, people rushed to get married. In the Netherlands, a country of about 16 million people, there were 2,414 same-sex marriages, according to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics. But already the following years, the number started to decline. Since 2005 the number of same-sex marriages has held steady at around 1,200 every year.
But even as the Dutch now take a prosaic view on same-sex marriage, some people still seek to thwart the wedding plans of same-sex couples. Only a few months ago a civil servant lost his job because he refused to register same-sex couples—a case that isn’t unique. In fact, a whole subset of Dutch functionaries has become known as “refusal civil servants” because of such actions, leading to an intense political debate about whether a public servant should be fired for refusing.
Jan Wolter Wabeke, now an appellate court judge who played a key role in setting the wheels in motion toward changing the marriage law, says the separation of church and state is important. “Nobody wants to hijack holy marriage, or the sacraments of religious wedding,” he says. “This is a contract of care between two partners, a legal marriage.”
He anticipated continued opposition to same-sex marriage. After all, it took almost 13 years to get the law passed in the first place. “I estimated it would take three governments,” for the proposal to pass, he says. “The first would reject the proposal, the second would consider implementing it, and the third would endorse it.” And that is exactly what happened.
This week’s Newsweek declared Obama “the first gay president.” From arguments that Buchanan was actually the first to groan about ‘the first ... president’ clichés, we rounded up some of the best—and harshest—feedback on the cover.
Before President Obama had even announced his support for same-sex marriage, Newsweek was expected to do something drastic.Time magazine’s cover, featuring a mother breastfeeding her 3-year-old, stirred speculation over what Newsweek, having presumably cornered the market on controversial magazine covers, would do to one-up its competitor. A Newsweek spokesman even confirmed that after editor Tina Brown saw the Time cover, she laughed and said, “Let the games begin.” Sure enough, Brown and the rest of the Newsweek editors were able to come up with an idea that created just as much, if not more, controversy—and discussion—as Time’s: a cover featuring an image of Obama with a rainbow halo over his head, above the headline “The First Gay President.” Poynter argues that “Newsweek’s cover is provocative, fun to riff about, and a flag in the ground that says print journalism still matters. Kinda makes you hope the games continue, doesn’t?”
Jewel Samad / AFP / Getty Images
1. Jim Loewen at Salon
Loewen disagrees with Newsweek’s cover story, arguing that Obama is not the United States’ first gay president. Not only is he not gay, we’ve already had a gay president: James Buchanan, he writes. “There can be no doubt that James Buchanan was gay, before, during, and after his four years in the White House. Moreover, the nation knew it too—he was not far into the closet,” Loewen writes, pointing to letters between Buchanan and a friend in which he laments the move of his lover to Paris. “I have gone a wooing to several gentleman, but have not succeeded with any one of them,” reads the quote from Buchanan’s letter. “I feel that it is not good for a man to be alone; and should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection.” Loewen argues that the reason Americans don’t name Buchanan as our first gay president “is that we have a touching belief in progress ... Buchanan could not have been gay then, else we would not seem more tolerant now.”
2. Eric Randall at The Atlantic Wire
As Andrew Sullivan himself acknowledged, the headline for his cover essay was not intended to be understood literally. Newsweek was not attempting to “out” Obama but rather was making a play on Toni Morrison calling President Bill Clinton “the first black president.” But Randall points out that this isn’t the first time that reference has been made. Obama has twice been called the first woman president: first in 2008, by Newsweek’s Martin Linsky, and then again by The Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker in 2010. The argument in both cases was that Obama’s wisdom, values, and management style were similar to that of a female leader. In 2009 the Associated Foreign Press asked if Obama was the first Asian-American president while, the same year, Geraldo Rivera suggested he might be the first Hispanic president. Then, in 2011, New York magazine declared him the first Jewish president. “Expectations were high that editor Tina Brown would do something typically attention-grabbing to mark this occasion, but this effort seems, well, cliché,” Randall writes. “It wasn’t going to be long before someone outed our first black, female, Jewish, Hispanic, Asian-American president as gay.”
3. Rick Klein at ABC News
While the “first ____ president” trope has been used before, never has “gay” been the fill-in word. And, as Klein points out, the significance of the cover lies in the fact that such an image of the Democratic president isn’t a terrifying thing for the party. “A move that any previous Republican candidate for president would have seen as a rainbow-wrapped gift has been met haltingly by the GOP’s standard bearer,” he writes. Instead, “the president has shifted on a major cultural issue where, polling suggests, demographics are on his side, if not necessarily politics. And the campaign has seen another week elapse where the Obama economy was not front and center.”
Obama’s bold support for same-sex matrimony sparked a political firestorm—but it wasn’t a historical game changer, writes historian Stephanie Coontz. The real shift happened in straight marriages.
President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage last week was certainly historic. But it was not a historical game changer. While Obama may pay a political price for outraging the well-funded minority that passionately opposes gay marriage, he is actually swimming with a strong historical tide.
Rachel Baker, left, and Christine Tully wait in line to get their marriage license at the Manhattan City Clerk in New York, July 24, 2011. (Jin Lee / Bloomberg / Getty Images )
Over the past two decades, and particularly in the last three years, we’ve seen a sea change in public opinion. In the mid-’90s, almost 70 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage. Now, according to a Gallup poll published last week, half of Americans believe that same-sex marriages should be legally recognized as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages. The Pew Research Center reports slightly lower numbers, but also shows more Americans supporting same-sex marriage than opposing it.
The country’s division over same-sex marriage is narrow enough for opponents to throw serious obstacles in its path. But it’s only a matter of time until they’re swamped by a demographic tide, because opposition to same-sex marriage is heavily concentrated in the oldest segments of the population. Less than one third of Americans aged 70 to 79 support same-sex marriage, whereas 56 percent of those aged 30 to 39 and more than 70 percent of those aged 18 to 29 are in favor of it.
And the growing visibility of gays and lesbians—in the military, in business, on television, and in people’s own kin networks—is eroding opposition even among the older generation. A 70-year-old Romney supporter told a New York Times reporter the day after Obama’s announcement: “I can’t say if I’m for it or against it, because I don’t know what my grandkids will be.”
These changes in sentiment are not just about “tolerance.” They reflect a historic transformation in what heterosexuals expect from their own marriages.
For millennia, marriage was about property and power rather than mutual attraction. It was a way of forging political alliances, sealing business deals, and expanding the family labor force. For many people, marriage was an unavoidable duty. For others, it was a privilege, not a right. Servants, slaves, and paupers were often forbidden to wed, and even among the rich, families sometimes sent a younger child to a nunnery or monastery rather than allow them to marry and break up the family’s landholding.
The redefinition of traditional marriage began about 250 years ago, when Westerners began to allow young people to choose their partners on the basis of love rather than having their marriages arranged to suit the interests of their parents. Then, just 100 years ago, courts and public opinion began to extend that right even to marriages that parents and society disapproved.
Biracial identity affected his “evolution.”
We’ve seen history made, writes Andrew Sullivan in Newsweek. When President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, he made his years of “evolution” look much more like a sort of patient intelligent design—and now he’s positioned himself to make once-unthinkable strides toward true equality for gay Americans. The immediate, or even long-term, consequences of Obama’s personal position are “impossible to judge,” Sullivan writes, but it seems clear that the president landed on the side of gay-marriage rights at least in part because of his own quest for an identity. “Barack Obama had to come out of a different closet,” Sullivan writes. “He had to discover his black identity ... just as gays discover their homosexual identity.”
62 percent all for recognition by law.
A week after President Obama announced his personal support for same-sex marriage rights, a new CBS/New York Times poll shows that 38 percent of Americans believe gay couples should be allowed to marry, while another 24 percent support same-sex civil unions. Thirty-three percent of Americans feel there should be no legal recognition available for gay couples at all. It’s a strong showing, and the numbers demonstrate that support for marriage rights is strongest among the young, but also that acceptance of the idea among Americans has continued to increase over time. A full 53 percent of 18- to 44-year-olds surveyed said same-sex couples should be guaranteed full marriage rights under the law.
Sought to manage same-sex marriage fallout.
President Obama had some explaining to do after announcing his personal support for same-sex marriage last week. Not to voters or party leadership, but to the ministers he called two hours after his television appearance. “They were wrestling with their ability to get over his theological position,” said the Rev. Delman Coates, a Baptist pastor who was on the conference call with other religious leaders, including some who said that Obama’s choice may cost him their support. In Newsweek, Andrew Sullivan explores how the president’s biracial identity led him to his historic announcement, one that could tip America toward marriage equality for all.
Black ministers have been among the most vocal opponents of gay rights, yet liberals seem scared to call them out. Mansfield Frazier and Larry Durstin write that needs to change.
As anticipated, the result of the 2004 presidential election came down to one state. In the hope of swaying the outcome in their favor, Ohio Republicans put a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the ballot, causing the left to stridently overreact. Battle lines were drawn and the right came out to vote in force largely because of this divisive issue.
The 160-year-old John Wesley AME Zion Church is one of the few predominantly African-American churches that still exists downtown in Washington, D.C., March 11, 2012. (Marvin Joseph / The Washington Post)
Among the most vocal groups supporting the ban were the state’s African-American ministers, who roared against homosexuality from their pulpits Sunday after Sunday with the kind of righteous joy usually reserved for those popping out of the River Jordan’s baptismal waters. The amendment won, and so did the candidate who supported it, George W. Bush. Exit polls indicated the large number of voters who showed up specifically in support of the ban was the deciding factor in the election.
Since then, in state after state and city after city, initiatives, referenda, and ballot issues to ban gays from marrying have popped up, all sponsored by Republican governors, legislatures, mayors and city councils. Teaming up with the GOP in many of these battles have been black ministers from the inner city who often boasted they would remain in the forefront of this particular struggle as long as breath remained in their bodies (or as long as right-wing cash poured into their coffers).
In the midst of neighborhoods rife with social, financial, and law-enforcement issues, including single-parent households, sky-high unemployment, crime, drugs, gangs, teen pregnancies, abandoned houses, failing schools, dwindling police, fire, and social services, life-and-death health-care debates, and widespread hopelessness—these crusading clerics chose the single issue of same-sex marriage to take their “Here I Stand” position.
Following Obama’s dramatic endorsement of same-sex marriage this week, it will be interesting to see how these ministers react.
If, as is likely, many swallow their silver-tongued, fire-and-brimstone tirades against gay marriage and instead preach the words of forgiveness and reconciliation, perhaps it may be time to take a closer look at the motivations behind the gay-bashing practices of so many of these black men of the cloth. Could it be that their bible-thumping moralizing is perhaps a sign of their impotence?
Since the civil-rights triumphs of five decades ago it certainly could be argued that the leaders of the black church have failed their flocks. Aside from gaining inroads into the political world and helping elect black officials, it's obvious that—on myriad levels—the lives of many urban blacks keep getting worse while black church officials do little other than ride around in Cadillacs.
Instead of firing up the right against same-sex unions, Romney spent a bigger chunk of today's commencement speech discussing Chick-fil-A. Michelle Goldberg on why he skirted the issue.
Romney appeared at America’s largest evangelical university—a school founded by Jerry Falwell, which teaches that Mormonism is a cult—to shore up his relationship with the Christian right. Just days earlier, of course, President Obama outraged the movement by announcing his support for marriage equality, and social conservatives hoped Romney would capitalize on the issue. “This is a very potent weapon, if you will, for Governor Romney if he’s willing to step up and take advantage of a president who is very much out of touch with the values of America,” Rick Santorum told an Arkansas TV interviewer on Friday. Nevertheless, Romney’s speech showed a remarkable reluctance to engage in anti-gay demagoguery.
Indeed, his anodyne remarks touched only briefly on the debate over gay rights. Speaking about the role of the family in American life, he said, “As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate. So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.” And that was it. He devoted twice as many words to his praise of Chick-fil-A.
Romney’s main nod to culture-war rhetoric was in his theological explanation for American preeminence: “You enter a world with civilizations and economies that are far from equal,” he said, arguing that central to “America’s rise to global leadership is our Judeo-Christian tradition, with its vision of the goodness and possibilities of every life.” This plays into the Christian right’s belief that the United States was founded to be a Christian nation, but there’s nothing in it to freak out moderates, who will likely hear it as a predictable affirmation of American exceptionalism.
Romney’s reticence on gay marriage doesn’t likely stem from any personal reluctance to discuss social issues, since he’s been voluble on such issues in the past. In a video from 2004 dug up by American Bridge, a liberal SuperPac, he even seemed to suggest that a kid with one dead straight parent would be better off than the child of a living gay couple.
“If a mother or a father is deceased, the child can learn about the qualities of their departed parent,” he said during a congressional hearing. “His or her psychological development can still be influenced by the contrasting features of both genders.”
We don’t know if Romney has evolved since then, but public attitudes certainly have. In 2004, opposition to gay marriage was crucial to George W. Bush’s reelection strategy. That year, anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives galvanized Christian conservative turnout in swing states like Ohio, and overall, more than a fifth of voters cited “moral values” as their chief concern. A mere eight years later, though, the GOP finds itself much more wary of homophobia, and thus unable to effectively use Obama’s newfound support for gay marriage against him. The same party that has spent much of the year accusing the president of waging a “war on religion”— a phrase Romney used just last month—has realized that going after gay people is no longer politically useful.
The president said in 1996 that he would support legalizing gay marriage, and 16 years later became the first Oval Office holder to do just that, writes Michelle Goldberg.
In a major policy shift Wednesday, President Obama told ABC News’s Robin Roberts that ‘same-sex couples should be able to get married.’ The move marked the first time a sitting president has thrown his support behind gay marriage and the end of Obama's self-described 'evolution' on the issue.
As the debate over gay marriage rages, what marriages and weddings really mean. By David Jefferson.
As same-sex couples march down the aisle in N.Y., Andrew Sullivan reflects on his own pursuit of happiness.
From Canada to Portugal, 10 countries that allow same-sex couples to legally tie the knot.