marriage equality in the 2012 election

 “At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

-Barack Obama, President of the United States

The news media exploded with that statement, as earlier this week Barack Obama became the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage.  The punditry and political commentators have engaged in a vigorous back and forth as to whether this will hurt Obama in the general election, but it’s far too early for its ultimate impact on the electoral tally to be seen.  Truth is, same-sex marriage is still a deeply divisive issue in this country.  A poll taken by USA Today and Gallup the day after the president made his announcement showed that 51% of Americans approve of the president’s statement compared to 45% who disapprove; 13% said this would make them more likely to vote for him in the general election, while 26% said they’d be less likely [1].  Discussion of the president’s “evolution” and announcement timing (an interesting topic in itself) aside, this endorsement represents a risky move on Obama’s part.  Many have called it courageous, others, foolhardy.

Contrast this with presumptive nominee Mitt Romney’s response to the issue.  His campaign has stated that same-sex marriage will be a topic of debate in the coming race, pledging to support a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage [2].  This Saturday at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, Romney reaffirmed his opposition to the president on this issue, stating again that “marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman” [3].  With disapproval of same-sex marriage so strong amongst the conservative base, particularly Christian evangelicals, it seems unlikely that Romney will enjoy any ability (or desire) to pivot far from his constituents’ beliefs.

What, then, does this debate mean for the conscientious observer leading up to this November?  This is a poignant opportunity to take a look not only at same-sex marriage but what these stances say about the candidates’ philosophies as a whole.  I, like many others, believe that marriage equality is likely to be the defining civil rights issue of our generation.  This announcement, when combined with his repeal of DADT and refusal to defend DOMA, places Obama squarely on the side of moving forward, on the side of making America as welcoming and inclusive a society as possible.  That Mitt Romney, rather than letting this simply fade from the headlines, wishes to make his opposition to marriage equality a key platform of his campaign speaks volumes to the chasm between the candidates and highlights, I believe, the defining difference between the competing versions of society being offered this election.  One emphasizes tolerance; the other, conformity.  Americans come from a marvelous range of beliefs and heritages, and our acceptance of that is part of what made this nation great.  That we, at the start of the 21st century, are still debating whether or not to extend equal rights to our fellow citizens is deeply saddening.  Religious or atheist, gay or straight, can we not agree that equality is an American value?  I would like to think so, but come this November, we’ll see.

One Response to “marriage equality in the 2012 election”
  1. Laina Dahl says:

    Glad to see you’re writing again!

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