Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Evolver in Chief

Lots of buzz before the president's news conference this morning about what he'd say about marriage equality, given the historic steps forward in New York this week. Of course I watched and listened.

Pressed several times for his personal views of same-sex marriage, President Obama's good natured answer was “I’m not going to make news on that today -- Good try, though.” Later, he added: “I’ll keep on giving you the same answer until I give you a different one. And that won’t be today.”

The president also outlined just what he has done for LGBT equality:
"This administration, under my direction, has consistently said we cannot discriminate as a country against people on the basis of sexual orientation. We have done more in the two and a half years that I been in here than the previous 43 presidents to uphold that principle, whether it's ending 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' making sure that gay and lesbian partners can visit each other in hospitals, making sure that federal benefits can be provided to same-sex couples, across the board - hate crimes - we have made sure that that is a central principle of this administration because I think it's a central principle of America."

"We've...filed briefs before the Supreme Court that say we think that any discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgenders is subject to heightened scrutiny. We've said that DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional."

"And so I think the combination of what states are doing, what the courts are doing, the actions that we're taking administratively all are how the process should work, Ultimately," he concluded "I think we're moving in a direction of greater equality, and I think that's a good thing."
And at this point, so do I. Think it's a good thing. And this evening I'm wondering if it isn't actually the best thing for the president to be doing at this point.

I realize this puts me at odds with some of my activist allies who want President Obama to give us a Senator Grisanti moment that will give us goose-bumps and go viral on YouTube, Who want to hear from Obama's lips the words "I support marriage equality for same-sex couples." Who want the Oval Office occupant to stop "evolving" already and step up, speak up and give us marriage equality.

Here's my take: We don't need Obama to get marriage. We need Obama to get re-elected. And if he needs to continue to "evolve" personally on marriage equality while he's supporting hate crimes legislation, repealing DADT and calling DOMA unconstitutional -- not to mention recording an "It Gets Better" video, making an LGBT Pride Month Proclamation and hosting a reception for LGBT leaders at the White House -- well, then I can wait for my goosebump moment on YouTube.

Because I think having an "Evolver in Chief" model for the nation that you can be undecided about "gay marriage" and still fight for equal protection for LGBT Americans may in the end be a gift -- not just to the marriage equality movement but to the nation as a whole. It offers a brilliant illustration of the fact that nobody -- not even the President of the United States -- gets to write their theology into our Constitution. And as the DOMA cases wend their way to the Supreme Court it gives us real hope that we can finally strike down the act that prevents our marriages from receiving the 1138 federally protected rights the opposite sex couple next door get without thinking about it.

People "evolve" about gay marriage. Presidents of the United States don't "evolve" about equal protection. Working to repeal DOMA wlll not contradict his position that marriage is a matter for the states to decide. But it will provide equal protection to married couples -- whether same or opposite sex -- and will take the federal government where it ought to be: out of the discrimination business.

So, Mr. President, thanks the remider about everything we have accomplished in this morning. Thanks for having some of my friends over for drinks this afternoon. And thanks for your continued commitment to moving in a direction of greater equality. I believe we're going to get there. I believe you're going to be on the right side of history with us. And I believe I will get goose bumps when you "evolve" to the point of giving us the different answer you weren't ready to give us today.

We're ready whenever you are. But in the meantime, keep up the good work!


John B. Chilton said...


Given that you're an excellent newshound this may not be news (and, in any event, it may not be much news), but there was a bit of a back track on DOMA:

"the Justice Department believes that DOMA is unconstitutional, but is appealing a ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional."

Wormwood's Doxy said...

I think you let him off the hook way too easily.

Once upon a time, he was firmly in favor of same-sex marriage. It was only political expediency that made him "devolve." It is only the crassest form of political opportunism that will allow him to "re-evolve" to his former position in January 2013 if he is re-elected. I find no "leadership"--or even any "evolution"--in that....

Here's my take: We don't need Obama to get marriage. We need Obama to get re-elected.

Maye YOU need that. Personally, I need a President who actually acts like the Democrat I *thought* I was voting for. I need a President with some principles s/he isn't willing to sell to Corporate America and who will fight for "the least among us."

As of right now, I do not see anyone running who will do those things. And the more people excuse the President for his failure to stand up for the average American in any number of realms (marriage equality, healthcare, social services, taxes, civil liberties...the list is endless...), the more I realize we are never going to get that leader.

We need to expect more.

We need to stop being grateful for the crumbs from the table and hold him--and everyone else in public life--accountable.

No excuses. Because justice delayed is justice denied. And there ain't NOTHING Gospel about that...


I hear you.

And I emphathize.

And I guess I'm just too jaded a policital junkie to expect anything more than the best we can get given the current state of national politics.

I would love someone in the White House 100% behind EVERY justice issue I care passionately about: health care for children and seniors; the environment; immigration reform; LGBT equality; women's rights; education; economic justice ... etc, etc, etc.

That person isn't going to get elected.

And letting the "other person" get elected (whoever that turns out to be) because "our" candidate is too prophetic to get elected is not a scenario I'm willing to contemplate.

I said in the post that I knew it put me at odds with some of my activist allies. Thanks for disgreeing so agreeably! :)

IT said...

I think in these discussions there are pragmatists, and there are idealists.

And it's a good thing we have both: the pragmatists to make sure we accomplish what we can now, and the idealists to make sure we keep on, reaching for that which exceeds our grasp, "to strive to seek to find and not to yield."