Republicans could join Obama on same-sex marriage
In finally evolving to support marriage equality, President Obama has not only placed himself firmly on the right side of history with respect to an issue of fundamental rights and justice but he has also thrown down the gauntlet for Republicans, especially his presumed challenger, Mitt Romney.
In his comments to ABC News, the president said his attitude toward gay marriage has been shaped over time by voters and members of his own staff “who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together” – who are clearly in love. In other words, the president let the human reality around him shape his personal views and will now lead accordingly – a stark contrast, say, with Mitt Romney, who seems to have little grasp of the struggles and experiences of actual voters and instead rotates his political viewpoints as often as he rotates the cars on his vehicle elevator. In President Obama’s “evolution,” America saw a leader who is not afraid to be wrong and not afraid to change his mind. It’s refreshing.
And now it’s the Republicans’ turn. As Fox News anchor Shepard Smith suggested in reporting the president’s shift, Republicans are “on the wrong side of history.” Indeed. But they have plenty of time to make amends. Republicans should be ashamed enough that theirs is the party that stood in the way of interracial marriage and civil rights. Is that really a legacy the GOP wants to continue into the 21st century? It seems to me the GOP has a choice between courting the open-minded next generation of voters, or continuing to be marred by scandals in which anti-gay Republican after anti-gay Republican is embarrassingly outed and shamed. Apparently this is a tough choice for the GOP, which would rather keep implicitly firing up bigotry than stand firm for equality.
In our exceptionally and often disgustingly hyper-partisan political environment, it can be difficult to remember that political decisions affect real people – and that the politicians who make those decisions are people, too. People can make mistakes. People can change. The same goes for presidents. I believe the president genuinely did evolve on this issue. Sure, it’s easy to be cynical that the same Obama who has been conflict-averse since day one of his administration was merely letting his opinion on gay marriage sail with the winds of political pressure. As the New York Times editorialized, the president “dampening the enthusiasm of allies without gaining the support of equality’s opponents [is] not an unfamiliar place for this president to be, unfortunately.” Unfortunate but accurate. But he deserves our praise now for coming out on the right side of marriage equality and having the decency to call his shift a shift rather than maneuver like Romney, who plainly flip-flops on issues like gay marriage for political gain while trying to feign consistency. Not only should the gay community (including gay Republicans) be thoroughly fed up with being political pawns, but voters in general should be fed up with politicians who refuse to do what’s right and merely, cautiously do what they think is popular.
The great leaders in history were not the ones who did what was popular, but those who did what was difficult – yet ultimately right. In standing up for marriage equality, President Obama showed that he has the capacity to be that kind of leader. Here’s hoping Republicans will follow his lead.
PHOTO: President Barack Obama gestures during the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) 18th annual gala dinner in Washington, May 8, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas