Opinion

The Great Debate

Republicans could join Obama on same-sex marriage

By Sally Kohn
May 9, 2012

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

Comments
16 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

It was a Republican House of Representatives that ended “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Obama hasn’t joined same sex marriages. Barack Hussein Obama II, is a looter, looting our work; After the vote Obama NOW is for gay marriages. “There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist.” Ayn Rand

Posted by l.conley | Report as abusive
 

Sally, you are selective in your history in totally blaming GOP for civil rights resistance. Dems were highly complicit in protecting slavery and single-handedly passed Jim Crow laws. Fair and balanced in this piece would be much more credible.

Posted by nscottjtx | Report as abusive
 

Too late. What would they do with their “war on marriage” meme? Anywho, the pacesetters on the right are Rush, Ailes and Levin. Romney has just “enough digits to handle a pen”(Grover.) There’s no other nerve on the right.

Posted by tifosa | Report as abusive
 

Homosexual marriage and interracial marriage aren’t the same thing.

Posted by Jayhay | Report as abusive
 

Au contraire mon fraire Jayhay. The arguments against miscegenation or inter-racial marriage are remarkably similar to those that we hear today against gay marriage. The bible is quoted and some higher law is used to justify some prejudice. This like so many other “truths” are socially constructed and evolve in the zeitgeist. History and politics are punctuated but such arguments. This to will follow the same path and there will be a “good” and a “bad” side of history. Our grand kids will be the judges.

Posted by donn0008 | Report as abusive
 

The last few surveys I’ve seen on Americans’ views of gay marriage showed a majority supported it. Obama waited until it was clearly a popular position before he took it. That’s not exactly what you’d call the leadership of a Churchill or a Martin Luther King.

If we look at the question as Kierkegaard or Socrates would have, we should wonder “Regardless of what the crowd says, what do we in our conscience know to be right?” or “How do we know what is good and what is bad?” Universities have been promoting a new value system called political correctness as a replacement for religious morality. As part of this new system, they want us to view homosexuals as victims who deserve enfranchisement with gay marriage, perhaps even special treatment in the form of hate crimes legislation. But in what way is homosexual behavior good? How is it an improvement on classical abstinence and heterosexual monogamy? If anything, the oral and anal sex associated with it have, like heterosexual promiscuity, promoted the spread of viruses.

In my opinion, it’s just another flavor of sophistic baloney. It’s not progress, it’s a rationale for destructive self-indulgence.

Posted by R.A.M. | Report as abusive
 

I disagree with your premise. History will eventually show that homosexuality is an unhealthy lifestyle choice much as alcoholism or drug abuse. This issue is often incorrectly associated with civil rights.

Posted by stanman63 | Report as abusive
 

It seems that the Democratic Party is now the one which is clearly on the side individual liberties, freedom and human rights.

That hasn’t always been the case. The Republican Party seem to have forgotten their roots in Abe Lincoln. They were the party that worked to set the slaves free. They were the ultimate party of human rights.

Now it would seem they want to be the party of intolerance.

A lot of my friends are Republican and I know that the vast majority of Republicans are not this way.

However, the Republican Party leadership has courted the hardcore religious fanatic right wing, just for the votes they represent. This very same hardcore religious right wants to impose its morals and values on the rest of the country. Such behavior goes against the core principles of the American Constitution and Bill of Rights. It contributes to making America un-American.

The Republican Party leaders should stop courting these fanatics and let them form their own political party, if they so choose. I’m sure the Republican party would benefit very rapidly by drawing in a lot of independents and conservative Democrats who cannot currently support the religious fanatic agenda.

Nicolas Sarkosy recently spent a lot of effort trying to court the extreme right wing of the French electorate. It may have cost him his re-election bid. It certainly will put a blotch next to his name in the history books. Inside, Romney is probably a pretty decent guy. But if he caters too much to the religious fanatics, he will just be a footnote in history after losing this election.

Posted by LoveJoyOne | Report as abusive
 

Ms. Kohn, where did you get your numbers that state the Republican party has attempted to block civil rights? If your citing the Civil RIghts Act of 1964, a simple internet search will show that House Republicans voted 138-34 (80%) to pass the bill, House Dems 152-96 (61%) to pass the bill. In the Senate, Republicans voted to pass the bill 27-6 (82%), Dems to pass 46-21 (69%). It was the Democratic party that tried to block passage through filibuster in the Senate. Are you referencing other issues? If so, what are they?

A very critical point of discussion in this debate on gay marriage-is it okay to be intolerant of others beliefs in the name of tolerance? Who is trying to force views on whom?

Posted by MLNemo | Report as abusive
 

As a matter of fact, the record shows that since 1933 Republicans had a more positive record on civil rights than the Democrats.

In the 26 major civil rights votes after 1933, a majority of Democrats opposed civil rights legislation in over 80 percent of the votes. By contrast, the Republican majority favored civil rights in over 96 percent of the votes.

[See http://www.congresslink.org/civil/essay. html and http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/uni ts/1982/3/82.03.04.x.html.

The fact that Democrats are quick to take credit for the Civil Rights Act and for the civil rights movement itself is both phony and a self-absorbed vanity.

Posted by 123456789ME | Report as abusive
 

First the name change from queer to gay, now gay marriage to marriage equality. Its word games! Lets face it, society it being deluged with perversity. I for one am waiting for the rapture to end all this nonsense.

Posted by glassylady | Report as abusive
 

For all those that support the choice to bew in a homosexual relationship, where do we draw the line regading “other” choices people make in thier sex lives. Why can’t an individual love more than 1 other individual at the same time, polygamy? So, it’s OK for a man to love a man and a woman to love a woman but not for a man to love a man and a woman or two woman or two men? How is that any different? Gay marriage is not about the sex it’s about loving relationships. Yet we condemn polygamists. Has anyone ever stopped to consider the costs associated with gay marriage? We’d have to rewrite so much legisilation that the cost would be enormous. But one talks about this. We are a country built on religious freedom. Yet, this issue clearly disavows anyone’s religious thinking? But, it’s OK to trample on their rights? Well it is in this case. And doesn’t anyone wonder why this movement has exploded to such a degree now. I stop and wonder if there has always been this many gay people in our society or is this a movement of popularity? I don’t care what anyone does in the confines of their bedroom as long as it’s consenting between the parties. Why do we as a society condemn swingers and the swinging lifestyle? They are consenting adults. They aren’t looking for special recognition. They just want to have the right to express themselves in a manner acceptable to them. Yet, mention swinging and the population gets up in arms. Disgusting, revolting, etc.

Posted by teamsolution | Report as abusive
 

Glasslady’s comment on name changing – word games is cogent. Hermaneuticists love the name game. It gives (them) cover for all sorts of chicanery.

HOWEVER, she might want to read the actual (quoted) words of her “guru” before intentionally “sinning.” Waiting around for an event with a sexually perverse sounding name is antithetical to said guru’s command to be actively engaged in (at least) promoting “discipleship” and “caring for widows and orphans.”

Besides, what happens if, as no less a civic-minded servant than John Calvin thought, the “rapture” proves to be a metaphorical allegory? Could be a long wait ;-0

Posted by skteze | Report as abusive
 

Homosexual has the same right that straigt people, the main thing is that thy want reconnoissance from the society, they do not want as Obama say the right to marry they want be accepted as a acceptable behavior

Posted by AngelMoroni | Report as abusive
 

How dare you speak of human beings this way? Homosexuality is not a disease or disorder, or anything you ignorant people call it. Please educate yourselves.

Posted by Aberombie | Report as abusive
 

While the spirit of what President Obama has done by supporting gay marriage does put his character on the right side of history, the act itself does not. In pushing for gay marriage legalization, the government is effectively making the institution of marriage a greater social norm than it currently is, and in doing so creates a society that encourages a union that is one size fits all. A divorce rate hovering at 50% indicates that this isn’t working for everyone. The best way to create a free nation of equals is to let the people make personal, life shaping choices as individuals, rather than a herd. As a gay man, I’ve experienced inequality, and I long for change, but a change for true freedom and equality, not the illusion of them. I don’t want my chains loosened to be as comfortable as everybody else’s- I want them removed.

Posted by ShaunSeaman | Report as abusive
 

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