Thursday, May 10, 2012

Obama Evolving - Romney Devolving

Yesterday, the day following my post on this subject, President Obama stated that …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.  Thus President Obama became the first sitting President of the United States to come out in favor of same sex marriage.

Yesterday, Mr. Romney also stated his position on this issue.  He reiterated his opposition to same sex marriage (he favors a Constitutional amendment to ban it on the federal level).  However, in addition he added that he would oppose civil unions which confer rights similar to those of marriage. If a civil union is identical to marriage other than with the name, why, I don’t support that.

The opponents of marriage equality often justify their opposition by saying that the term marriage has always meant the union of a man and a woman.  Of course, they are wrong about this.  In Biblical times marriage was often between one man and many women and not so long ago in the US the Mormon Church supported and advocated polygamous marriage.  In any case, one would think that individuals who claim to oppose same sex marriage because of their reverence for the word marriage would not oppose civil unions which carry another name.  Evidently not, at least in the case of Mr. Romney.  His animus to gays is such that he doesn’t want to allow them to form any sort of state recognized union.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why Mr. Romney and his fellow travelers on this issue are so determined to deny couples who are committed to each other from marrying and forming families.  It will not adversely affect in any way Mr. Romney’s marriage, my marriage, or any other heterosexual marriage.  Mr. Romney should know - one of his residences is in Massachusetts which has had legal same sex marriage for years.  The results have only been positive.

Mr. Obama’s statement is a welcome development and should serve to sustain the ongoing sharp increase in the fraction of Americans who support same sex marriage (now a majority with approximately 50% in favor and 45% opposed, compared to approximately 35% in favor and 60% opposed just a decade ago).  Of course, there is regional variation, with same sex marriage still being opposed in the Bible Belt - as indicated by this week’s vote to amend the North Carolina constitution to ban same sex marriage.  However, even there the vote would have been much more lopsided a decade ago.

As welcome as Mr. Obama’s statement is, it certainly did not go far enough.  Mr. Obama presented his position as his personal view and said that the decision on whether to permit same sex marriage is a state issue.

In the United States civil rights emphatically have been under federal jurisdiction and not delegated to the states.  As I recall, we fought a rather bloody civil war to establish this principle.  More recently, specifically on the topic of freedom to marry, in Loving v. Virginia the US Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws that were in place in many states that prohibited blacks and whites from marrying each other.  The US Supreme Court thus established the right to marry as a US Constitutional right.

Mr. Obama has done more for gay rights than any previous US President by overseeing the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and deeming the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional and supporting that position in ongoing court cases.  Yesterday’s statement that he is personally in favor of same sex marriage is most welcome.  However, Mr. Obama’s evolution will not be complete until he advocates for full marriage equality as a fundamental federal civil right.

In contrast, Mr. Romney’s past and present positions are contemptible.  He is continuing to devolve – whether or not he accepts the theory of evolution.

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