While some in the mainstream media have already anointed President Obama as the “first gay president“, a central point that has largely been ignored is the fact that he voiced an extremely tepid and limited endorsement of gay marriage – or rather, a non-endorsement endorsement – which ultimately has the effect of potentially hurting the gay marriage movement in the long run, rather than helping it.
In President Obama’s now famous interview with Robin Roberts, of Good Morning America fame – where he first articulated his “evolution” on the issue – President Obama clearly noted that gay marriage was a state issue, not a federal one. In fact, President Obama explicitly stated that “I think, states working through this issue … [d]ifferent communities are arriving at different conclusion[s] … I think it is a mistake to– try to make what has traditionally been a state issue into a national issue.”I think it is a mistake to– try to make what has traditionally been a state issue into a national issue. – President Barack Obama
This interview was President Obama’s moment and opportunity to undeniably stand up for something that he says he believes in; this was his moment to make gay marriage a civil rights issue, a national issue. However, on national television before a national audience President Obama essentially punted on the issue of gay marriage at the expense of the LGBT community. Nevertheless, that has not stopped the mainstream media from heaping mounds of praise on President Obama while ignoring the inconvenient truth of his words.
What is being lost is that by proclaiming gay marriage a state issue, President Obama effectively and irrevocably recognized that gay marriage is not a basic civil rights issue; thus not under the strict scrutiny of equal protection. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment states that “[n]o State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Consequently, in recognizing gay marriage as a state issue, President Obama undeniably acknowledged that such a marriage is not a civil right, for how can gay marriage be a civil right if it could be lawfully denied at the state level? Gay marriage simply cannot be both a state issue and a civil rights issue; if gay marriage is a state issue, then it cannot be a constitutionally protected civil right. Conversely, if gay marriage is a civil right, then it cannot be denied at the state level and subsequently cannot be a state issue.…in recognizing gay marriage as a state issue, President Obama undeniably acknowledged that such a marriage is not a civil right, for how can gay marriage be a civil right if it could be lawfully denied at the state level?
Ironically, while many in the media continue to sing his praises, they conveniently ignore the fact that President Obama could have chosen not to punt on this issue – after all, as a former Constitutional Law professor, this important distinction could not have been foreign to him. However, his decision to try to play both sides of the issue, by touting his evolution on gay marriage while not making it a civil rights issue, was ostensibly a calculated political decision, one that the gay community will likely end up paying for, even as those within that community and the mainstream media continue to celebrate all that is President Obama.
My personal view of this issue is just that, personal, so this post is neither intended to support nor deny gay marriage or civil unions, but rather only to recognize that President Obama, despite overwhelming favorable coverage by the mainstream media, did not do the LGBT community any big favors. In fact, President Obama acted in a manner that very likely benefited his campaign financially (as he works to raise money for his reelection from his base), at the cost to those he purports to support in the gay community. This reeks of being a calculated risk, rather than any self-proclaimed evolution – but, the mainstream media, not surprisingly, seems more intent on applauding President Obama, than looking at what he actually stated … and all Americans suffer when the media chooses not to do its job.