WASHINGTON — This past week’s news cycle has produced two narratives:
One, Barack Obama is an evolutionary, 21st-century hero who supports equality for all. Two, Mitt Romney is a gay-bashing bully mired in the previous century, who also supports a war on women and, oh yeah, hates dogs.
Let’s parse, shall we?
Obama’s Big Announcement that he supports gay marriage came about for the following reasons: (a) He had no choice after Vice President Joe Biden said on “Meet the Press” that he was fine with same-sex marriage; (b) one in six of Obama’s campaign bundlers, those who raise big bucks, is openly gay; (c) Obama risks nothing except the votes of those who wouldn’t have voted for him anyway.
And last, but certainly not least, because supporting equal treatment of all Americans under all legal contracts, including marriage with all its attendant rights and responsibilities, is the right thing to do. In this respect, Obama may have evolved in his thinking, as millions of other Americans have, including yours truly. Indeed, polls show that the country is about evenly divided on the question, with younger Americans overwhelmingly supportive of same-sex marriage. In another generation, this conversation likely will be irrelevant.
Meanwhile. Can we stop hyperventilating long enough to not be ridiculous?
Yes, Obama’s statement carries symbolic weight, but it changes nothing. In fact, by also saying he thinks the issue should remain with the states, he is both taking a conservative, states’ rights position and passing the constitutional buck.
As Joe Scarborough pointed out, if the president believes that equal marriage rights are constitutionally protected, then he has a duty to fight for those rights rather than hand off the issue to the states. Gays and lesbians won’t fare well on that frontier given that 30 states already have passed prohibitive amendments to their state constitutions.
Thus, Obama’s announcement, while political and pragmatic, was fundamentally meaningless. You’d never know it by the media’s response, of course. As Tim Stanley wrote in Britain’s The Telegraph, everything the first African-American president says or does is breathtakingly historic: