(White House photo)
President Obama's reelection campaign announces
his opposition to North Carolina's anti-gay Amendment 1, scheduled for a May 8 vote (via
“While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples,” said Cameron French, his North Carolina campaign spokesman.
“That’s what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do – it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples – and that’s why the President does not support it.”
This is good news, not just to the extent it helps defeat the amendment, but also because it signals a continuing evolution of President Obama's views on marriage equality. Yesterday, Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel reported
on the push to add a plank to the Democratic Party platform supporting marriage equality. According to their report, Obama campaign officials and senior Democrats are concerned about such a plank and the implications that it would have given President Obama's stated opposition to marriage equality. According to the report, they've been pushing a cautious hurry up and wait approach rather than the throw it in reverse one, apparently hoping that the issue will just disappear rather than wanting to overtly oppose it.
But as Greg Sargent and Joe Sudbay both argue, the issue is going to come to head in August no matter what. And given that reality, the question the Obama campaign and DNC officials should be weighing isn't whether the party platform can get out ahead of the president on marriage equality, it's whether the president (or his operatives) can afford to do anything that might get in the way of the party adopting a pro-equality plank.
Today's statement suggests that President Obama understands this. Obviously, he doesn't need to worry about a mad rush of gay activists to the Republican Party, but being on the right side of this issue boosts enthusiasm in a tough election year during which he needs an energized team.
Moreover, when President Obama makes moves—like his statement today—that bring him closer to supporting marriage equality and freedom, it is consistent with his political brand. I don't think anyone really believes he fundamentally opposes marriage equality, especially given the statement he made today. Obviously, he still hasn't completed his evolution, but at least he's going in the right direction. Heading the wrong way—and trying to block the marriage equality plank would be heading the wrong way—would seem like a cynical political calculation made out of fear.
Fortunately, if today's announcement is an indication of what's to come, that's not the direction he's heading. And this is one of those occasions where doing the right thing is also good politics. He might not have the power to make marriage equality the law of the land with the snap of his fingers, but you can be damn sure that supporting it would provoke a furious reaction from Republicans similar to the birth control debate, strengthening the hands of the right-wing Republicans like Rick Santorums and putting the G.O.P.'s anti-gay bigotry on full display for all to see. And when the public pulls back from the Republican Party in response, we'll all have a good laugh as they accuse President Obama of having trapped them. Yes, he'll have trapped them ... into saying what they really believe.