They just said on NPR a little while ago, Nina Totenberg I suppose it was, that the Obama Justice Department has a slew of technical legal issues to deal with as a result of yesterday's gay-marriage rulings. There are, as you've probably heard, more than 1,000 federal benefits that redound from the matrimonial state, and DoJ attorneys have to figure out how to enforce the rulings in all these complicated particulars.
Which made me think: What if Obama were still against same-sex marriage? Not at all a crazy thought, right? Remember when he supported the policy last year, after Joe Biden got out "ahead of his skis"? It was a policy shift that happened sort of by accident.
So we could very easily be sitting here watching Obama issue a statement yesterday not hailing the decisions but tepidly, awkwardly, and hypocritically denouncing them. And all that Justice Department machinery would be put into motion not for the purpose of enforcing the rulings but to the end of fighting them. Imagine how vastly different a situation that would be.
Or, perhaps, Obama would have used the occasion of these decisions finally to say that okay, he would support the Court and change his personal position. That might be more likely than the above scenario. But even in this case, it would have meant that Obama had to be dragged against his will to the right side of history by the Supreme Court. By Anthony Kennedy!
But he didn't. However he got there last year, he got there. And nearly every other elected Democrat of any prominence at all who wasn't already there followed him there. And so the Democratic Party, which certainly has its problems and is too deeply in hock to corporate and special interests and often lacks the courage of its convictions and all the rest of it, was fully on the right side of history well ahead of this momentous decision. Again, imagine yesterday in a parallel universe, one in which Obama did not place congratulatory phone calls to the successful plaintiffs from Air Force One. It all feels so much better that he did, and that the president of the United States was without reservation on the side of justice.
I think his embrace of same-sex marriage is probably the most courageous single act Obama has taken. I will admit, to my shame, that I thought it was too risky a thing to do in an election year. I was wrong. Obama was right. And that it didn't end up costing him, that if anything it may have helped him a little, doesn't make it any less courageous. The impacts were unknown at the time. On this issue, when it mattered, he really acted like a leader, and it made for a much better day yesterday than watching him try to finesse the issue in that depressing way that liberals are all too accustomed to watching Democrats do.