The following e-mail was sent out yesterday on behalf of President Obama:
Today, I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer:
I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
I hope you’ll take a moment to watch the conversation, consider it, and weigh in yourself on behalf of marriage equality:
I’ve always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. I was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes. And I thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution.
But over the course of several years I’ve talked to friends and family about this. I’ve thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships who are raising kids together. Through our efforts to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, I’ve gotten to know some of the gay and lesbian troops who are serving our country with honor and distinction.
What I’ve come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.
One the ironies of this position is how it claims a high view of marriage—so high that if same-sex couples cannot be “married”, they aren’t “full citizens”—as an excuse for gutting the real meaning of marriage. Not, of course, that Obama and those who agree with him see it that way; for them it is all about “equality” and “fairness”, terms that fall upon the ears (or eyes) with a lightness equal to their rhetorical vacuousness.
As for Obama’s mention of a “direct answer”, many commentators have noted that Obama has danced around this issue for many years, even openly supporting “same-sex marrage” back in the mid-1990s, as Elliott Abramas notes on The Weekly Standard blog:
In fact, Obama has not “evolved”—he has changed his position whenever his political fortunes required him to do so. Running for the Illinois state senate from a trendy area of Chicago in 1996, he was for gay marriage. “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages,” he wrote in answer to a questionnaire back then. In 2004, he was running for the U.S. Senate and needed to appeal to voters statewide. Sohe evolved, and favored civil unions but opposed homosexual “marriage.” In 2008, running for president, he said, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.” Now in 2012, facing a tough reelection campaign where he needs energized supporters of gay “marriage” and has disappointed them with his refusal to give them his support, he is for it. To paraphrase John Kerry, he was for it before he was against it before he was for it again.
Back to the conclusion of the Obama e-mail:
Even at my own dinner table, when I look at Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples, I know it wouldn’t dawn on them that their friends’ parents should be treated differently.
So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.
If you agree, you can stand up with me here.
You don’t have to a cynic to wonder at the statement, “I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines.” After all, there is that little matter of the HHS mandate, which indicates a decided lack of respect for the beliefs of others and their doctrines and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their doctrines.
Meanwhile, Fox News reports:
A Florida pastor considered to be President Obama’s spiritual adviser says he was disappointed by the president’s decision to publicly announce his support for same-sex marriage.
The Rev. Joel Hunter told MyFoxOrlando that the president called him before his announcement aired. Hunter, the evangelical pastor of the 15,000 member Northland church in Longwood, said the decision makes it harder to support the president though he will continue to do so.
“I’m disappointed, not entirely surprised, because he thinks with his heart,” Hunter said.
I’m not sure what, exactly, Rev. Hunter meant by the last comment, but it seems to back up my impression that there are those, such as the President, who come at the issue from a position of (supposedly) morally superior emotions, while there are other who argue from a position of morally sound principles. Among the latter are Ryan T. Anderson, Robert P. George and Sherif Girgis, authors of several pieces on marriage, including a post on the NRO’s “The Corner”:
That is, the administration has created a long-awaited and much-needed platform for a national discussion of the core issue in the debate: What is marriage?
Consider two competing views:
The Historic View
Marriage as a comprehensive union: Joining spouses in body as well as mind, it is begun by commitment and sealed by sexual intercourse. So completed in the acts by which new life is made, it is specially apt for and deepened by procreation, and calls for that broad sharing of domestic life uniquely fit for family life. Uniting spouses in these all-encompassing ways, it also calls for all-encompassing commitment: permanent and exclusive. Comprehensive union is valuable in itself, but its link to children’s welfare makes marriage a public good that the state should recognize, support, and in certain ways regulate. Call this the conjugal view of marriage.
The Revisionist View
Marriage as the union of two people who commit to romantic partnership and domestic life: essentially an emotional union, merely enhanced by whatever sexual activity partners find agreeable. Such committed romantic unions are seen as valuable while emotion lasts. The state recognizes them because it has an interest in their stability, and in the needs of spouses and any children they choose to rear. Call this the revisionist view of marriage.
President Obama has made it clear that he favors the second view. He hasn’t offered any arguments for it, merely pointing to his feelings and those of his children.
Read the entire post. NRO also has a symposium, “The President Comes Out”, that features the reactions of several writers, scholars, and others to this story. I’ll just highlight one here, by Edward T. Mechmann of the Family Life/Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York (whose boss, in other words, is Cardinal Timothy Dolan):
The president has now announced what everyone already knew — he favors the radical redefinition of marriage.
In terms of actual policies, it’s hard to see how this announcement will make any difference. The administration has already abdicated its obligation to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, and has even advocated for courts to overturn it — a remarkable position for a president who swore to faithfully execute the laws and the Constitution.
Regardless, this announcement should fill defenders of marriage with trepidation. The president has an enormous capacity for influencing public opinion. Will he show respect for those who defend authentic marriage, or will this lead to our being further stigmatized as “bigots”? The federal government also has frightful authority to enforce laws against “discrimination.” Interestingly, the president invoked his personal faith in making this announcement. But will he — and his army of lawyers — show respect for the liberty of churches, organizations, and individuals who disagree with him based on their own religious beliefs? The track record is not encouraging.
It is a dangerous moment when the president rejects the foundation of our society. It may be a risky future for those of us who dissent.