Only eight months after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was lifted, President Barack Obama has announced that he personally endorses gay marriage. The president’s “coming out” as a supporter of gay marriage, has come after a longstanding opposition that the President described as an evolving stance.
Obama’s public support of gay marriage comes at an interesting time. While many social conservatives and evangelical Americans are vocally resisting the idea of gay marriage, the GOP is beginning to recognize that being queer isn’t so queer after all.
A GOP memo that dropped last week stated the following: “Support for same sex marriage has been growing and in the last few years support has grown at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down.” The memo also cites that public support for same sex marriage currently outweighs the opposition by almost 10 percent.
The memo goes on, suggesting different spins for GOP representatives who want to begin changing their stance. The memo recommends a statement reflecting the following attitude:
“People who believe in equality under the law as a fundamental principle, as I do, will agree that this principle extends to gay and lesbian couples; gay and lesbian couples should not face discrimination and their relationship should be protected under the law. People who disagree on the fundamental nature of marriage can agree, at the same time, that gays and lesbians should receive essential rights and protections such as hospital visitation, adoption rights, and health and death benefits.”
The memo was written by Jan van Lohuizen, former pollster for George W. Bush. The statement does not endorse gay marriage, but takes an incredible stride in acknowledging that equality is a basic right for all Americans and also touches on the humanitarian issues that many same sex couples face without state-approved civil unions or domestic partnerships.
When Rick Santorum visited Northwest Arkansas last week, he said that President Obama handed Mitt Romney “a very powerful tool” by announcing his support for gay marriage; and others agree that Obama’s stance on gay marriage is exactly what the GOP candidate will need to galvanize the evangelical voting base.
It seems, however, that Romney is not yet interested in exploiting his opponent’s liberal stance. In a press conference, Romney reacted to Obama’s announcement by reiterating his “preference” for marriage as defined between a man and a woman. If the GOP follows Lohuizen’s advice — and if the public continues to support civil equality — we could see a shift in the party’s attitude in respect to the gay community. However, they would most likely step into the role of moderate supporters, attempting to find a middle ground between legally recognized unions and the traditional sanction of marriage.
But the fight is far from over. A few last ditch efforts to maintain the federal stronghold of the Defense of Marriage Act paired with the upcoming decision on California’s Proposition 8 will keep the momentum of the movement taught. The issue is evolving from recognizing that the LGBT community deserves basic rights to exploring how those rights will be recognized on a state and federal level.