Out of the Closet: Will Obama Support Marriage Equality?
In light of Washington Governor Christine Gregoire's recent announcement that she now supports same-sex marriage, president Obama's "evolving" views on the issue seem increasingly behind the times. Indeed the list of prominent politicians advocating for gay marriage has grown substantially in recent years to include nearly 30 current and former governors, dozens of senators and representatives, and even former president Bill Clinton.
Among the most successful and politically savvy proponents of marriage equality has been New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. His success in brokering bi-partisan legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in New York provides a working model for how an executive can galvanize public support to make the issue a politically winnable one. His dogged dedication and personal investment in passing the bill brought together diverse groups, even including a few Wall Street bankers.
Gov. Gregoire is following a similar path and will likely see her state join the elite club of marriage equality havens. Much like Cuomo, Gregoire outlined the debate in personal terms, citing her struggle to reach this conclusion and the responsibility our society has to protect the rights of all people. An impassioned executive can clearly capitalize on public support for same-sex marriage (to their political advantage) and endeavor to get it done. So why not Obama?
Though he supports a wide-range of LGBT initiatives, the president has yet to make the final leap in supporting marriage equality. His successful effort to repeal DADT buoyed hopes that he might come out in full support of gay marriage. But that has yet to happen, and instead we are told that his views are still "evolving".
In an election year fraught with anxiety about the economy and a GOP controlled house, the prospect of a national push for same-sex marriage seems unlikely. There is virtually no chance of the president clawing a legislative victory of that magnitude out of congress in 2012. And in terms of political capital, my guess is that Obama is betting it's a losing issue and out of step with his broader economic message.
But if he were to announce support for marriage equality and rally the public to support the issue, state-level battles could be decisively swayed in the right direction. It would give marriage advocates a powerful voice in the debate and spur the public to pressure their representatives in congress to move the needle on a national scale. I doubt this will be the year, but I hope eventually Obama will come out of the closet on gay marriage and bridge the gap in his otherwise stellar record on gay rights.