Is it an election year or something?

May 11, 2012 8 Comments
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It is a surprise to no one in the US that Barack Obama supports gay marriage. The only thing that has raised eyebrows is how long it took the President to stumble towards a clear public affirmation of his position.

What’s surprising? Any US president saying this kind of thing is going to piss of the Christian right, and since they’re going to vote Republican that’s no loss to a Democratic pres. But surely it’s also going to appeal to a lot of right-on types who mostly vote Democrat, which means it might be the kind of thing a Democrat president could leave until nearer the election to give any wavering support a boost. This is almost certainly not a sudden Damascene conversion for Obama but something that’s been sat on until the time was judged to be right. From his perspective it would have been a bit of a waste for him to have said this three and a half years ago in the height of his post election (and not being George W Bush) popularity, but if he’s worried that some of his own voters will be viewing the last three years with enough disappointment that they might not vote he’ll probably think it’s time to play a pocket card or two. Suddenly being all right-on about gay marriage after being quite so long could be one such card, and timing it with allegations about Romney being a homophobe in the distant past (which was also preceded by a long period of absolutely nothing being said about it despite Romney being a senator, a state governor and a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2008) could be another.

In short, I don’t think gays should be getting too euphoric about this. I’d say this has got fuck all to do with their rights or anyone else’s and much more to do with getting the votes in come November. On the issue itself I’d say what I always do: that defining marriage is one of the vast (and growing) number of things that should not be a government function at any level, and most certainly not at the federal level. Seriously, just scrap the legal definition of marriage altogether. Gays should be free to define marriage so as to include them and find agreeable celebrants if they want, and those whose religious beliefs mean they define it otherwise should be free to disagree and say that those marriages have no validity in the sight of their preferred man in the sky. It won’t be enough to keep either group but think of the alternative. While it remains something that government feel they can involve themselves in then both gays and the religious will be electoral pawns with nice easy hot buttons to be pressed by otherwise shit politicians who couldn’t be trusted alone in a room with your wallet. But if both the gay and religious lobbies can stick their fingers up to both lots of pollies, and providing they can agree to disagree and don’t actually come to blows over it, then both could be better off. Just one small concession is needed from each side: the gays just need to concede that certain religions will always say that butt love and going sappho is sinful and rules out their particular marriage service, and in turn those religions need to concede that they’re not the only game in town as far as marriage is concerned.

Pictured - traditional marriage

So what’s it to be? I know at least one Christian who isn’t against gay marriage in general but would oppose it in her church, and I also know at least one gay person who’s fine with letting religious prohibitions stand indefinitely provided the various churches are willing to let bi-gals be bi-gals (so to speak) but I suspect they’re both in a minority and that things to remain pretty much the same as they are right now. I hope to be wrong about this one day and wake up to find that both groups have realised that they could both be freer than either is at the moment if only they just told the presidents and prime ministers to mind their own business about it.

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8 Responses to Is it an election year or something?

  1. Voice of Reason
    May 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I agree, but it’s too reasonable a position for here and now. I know many gay couples, and cannot see a reason why they shouldn’t have the same legal protections and rights that my wife and I enjoy.

    • May 12, 2012 at 6:18 am

      Yeah, though for me it’s not so much about letting them enjoy the same legal protections and rights as us since they’ve pretty much got that now with civil partnerships (to a greater or lesser extent depending on jurisdiction), and on civil partnerships it could be said that that which we call a rose would by any other name smell as sweet; so civil partnership would were it not civil partnership call’d. It’s more about the law being used to discriminate against anyone by creating legal definitions for things that people can make their own minds up about as individuals. Right now there’s a legal definition that discriminates against one minority, and it’s the agenda of some to change it so that it discriminates against the people who’ve been doing the discriminating up ’til now. I see an opportunity for the law not to discriminate against either of ‘em and instead recognise the rights of each and accept that people don’t always agree. It’s less than some on each side would want because they’d prefer the law to be the extra player on their team. I’d prefer the law to be an umpire with instructions to let play continue as long as the players aren’t fighting or fouling.

  2. OzExPat
    May 11, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    I disagree with your premise re the religious right – on the contrary, they are unconvinced by Romney’s “otherness” (Mormonism) but Obama just helped cement them in for the GOP.

    Of course the incumbent is being so clever in trying to ensure the debate is avoiding the economy with the connivance of the MSM. One wonders if it can work – I hope not.

    • May 12, 2012 at 5:11 am

      Then I explained it poorly. I’m wasn’t thinking about where the religious right are with Romney but where Obama may think they are, i.e. he’s probably already done enough to make them vote GOP even before his gay marriage announcement. I think he may be worrying about whether he’s done (or not done) enough to have disappointed enough Democrat voters into staying at home and handing it to the Republicans. And yes, I think you’re right that this is very much a “don’t look at that, look at THIS!” tactic. In reality Obama can say what he likes about gay marriage, but in his current job he has almost no power to make it happen. Short of stuffing a sympathetic Supreme Court in order in readiness for someone going there to argue its constitutionality same sex marriage is a decision for individual states, and Obama bloody knows it. This is just an exercise in trying to appear nicer than the other guy.

      • May 12, 2012 at 10:39 pm

        ‘… he’s probably already done enough to make them vote GOP even before his gay marriage announcement’.

        Yes — include disaffected Democrats there, too.

        ‘…this is very much a “don’t look at that, look at THIS!” tactic’.

        Very much so — one imagines that it’s been the big media buzz in the US over the past few days. It was even a principal talking point on French radio this week.

        ‘This is just an exercise in trying to appear nicer than the other guy’.

        Indeed. Unfortunately, a number of gays have been in the aforementioned disaffected Democrats group since 2008. See Kevin Dujan’s ‘HillBuzz’ blog: link to hillbuzz.org

        It’s interesting to see that, instead of writing about gay marriage, Dujan’s team is blogging about the wisdom of anti-EU folks, fully supporting them:

        link to hillbuzz.org

        They also wonder if the Washington Post is Communist-influenced:

        link to hillbuzz.org

        Great post, Angry Exile. Spot on with the analysis.

  3. Sackerson
    May 11, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    One issue that’s been raised in the UK is that marriage would entail the right to be married in a church, and to have the law prosecute the church authorities if they refused. In all other respects that I know of, a civil partnership has the same legal rights and tax benefits – or am I mistaken?

    • May 12, 2012 at 5:43 am

      I’ve been way too busy to read the UK papers lately but as far as I know you are mistaken and there is no plan to force religious establishments to conduct marriages their holy writ says are not marriages. For that matter, the last I heard actual gay marriage was still not likely there and there was no plan even to force churches to be available for civil partnership ceremonies.

      That’s not to say some (probably more than one) irritating prick in the gay lobby, quite possibly someone who’s not even actually gay themselves, isn’t after that. I suspect there are those whose thinking is that the religious have had their way on this for much of recorded history, and that half a millennium or so after the Renaissance and a couple of centuries into the so-called Age of Reason their influence over politics and society is still grossly disproportionate, and basically that it’s time to make them the oppressed minority for no other reason than a kind of inverted Buggin’s turn.

      I guess that nobody told them or that they’ve forgotten that two wrongs don’t make a right, and that if the law is to be used to force gay marriage to be celebrated by that minority (at least here and in the UK) whose beliefs preclude them even from recognising it then we’re as far away from equality before the law as when we were still locking up poets in Reading Gaol and pretending that lesbians don’t exist. There’s a gay wedding I very much want to go to that we’re all still waiting to be permitted by the state, but even though I’m as non-religious as they come I wouldn’t go if it took place anywhere that had been forced by law to hold it against the owner’s wishes or beliefs. That much is a straightforward property rights issue, but it’s property rights that come under attack if the legal definition of marriage is broadened to include the gay couple whose wedding I hope to go to one day. The only way I can see for both groups to be treated equally is for governments to stop defining marriage altogether and scrap even having any legal definition. Somehow I doubt Obama has that in mind.

  4. Greg Tingey
    May 13, 2012 at 8:39 am

    The christians proclaim that “god is love” – and then go around hating everyone and everything that isn’t controlled by them – and their particular variant of said death-cult too!

    Oh what a give-away!

    As for the “religious right” in the USSA, there is a single, really unpleasant word to describe them: fascist.

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