By Teresa Welsh |
President Obama's decision to support gay marriage will not help his re-election efforts. He has taken an issue that tugs at the heartstrings of many Americans and has turned it into a political ploy.
President Obama already has the support of the progressives and liberal constituents, but his announcement will further alienate religious voters including some of his core supporters who voted for him in 2008. Hispanic evangelical leaders are already calling President Obama's decision offensive. Recall what happened in California with Proposition 8, which eliminated the rights of same sex couples to marry. With their large congregations, Hispanic and African-American pastors, vocal opponents of same sex marriage, joined forces in support of Proposition 8. Could the president's changed views result in a less enthusiastic support from these minority groups?
The president's approach on this issue represents the worst of politics. Over the last 15 years he has taken opposing positions on this topic. First he favored legalization of same sex marriage in 1996 when he was a state senator and then changed his position to court Christian voters in 2008. And now in 2012, he is back where he started. This type of evolution is not Darwinian but Machiavellian. He has played both sides: one moment he is distancing himself from gay voters and the next he is misleading the Christian voters.
Although his announcement was not a shocking revelation by any means, President Obama's abrupt decision will lead to many disappointed voters who feel betrayed. He will surely re-invigorate conservative and religious voters in key states who continue to feel that President Obama is threatening their religious liberties by imposing his liberal agenda on their churches. From imposing mandates on contraception to now redefining marriage, churches are feeling minimized and frankly persecuted by the administration.
Why would the president make the announcement before the election knowing that gay marriage stirs such an emotional debate and is a divisive issue? President Obama was clearly pressured to respond after Vice President Joe Biden's comments on gay marriage. He even had to cancel his campaign trip to the swing state of North Carolina where a critical vote was scheduled this week on traditional marriage. Even the media kept digging in with Press Secretary Jay Carney who stayed vague at best. It was surely not the best timing and politically risky for the president, especially when 1.3 million voters in North Carolina overwhelming rejected same sex marriage and supported a constitutional amendment on traditional marriage, and several battleground states such as Florida and Ohio have already enacted a similar measure. This result is even more curious in light of North Carolina's embrace and support of President Obama in 2008.
The Obama team may have helped a new political marriage develop and that's the courtship of Mitt Romney with the Christian base of his party and those stubborn, church-going independents who have views so strong that they will not bend to the will of any party, including on moral issues. These unlikely partners are beginning to see the good in each other even more today than they did a few days ago. We will likely see a slew of Christian and conservative independents in North Carolina adding Mitt Romney bumper stickers on their SUVs and minivans as a result of Biden's announcement, I mean Obama's.
About Mercedes Schlapp Cofounder of Cove Strategies
Evan Wolfson Founder and President of Freedom to Marry
Rea Carey Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force