By Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., Being Latino
“Kinda,” writes The Nation’s Richard Kim. “Today, by endorsing a ‘state’s rights’ approach to same-sex marriage, Obama essentially preserves the current status quo.”
As Kim points out, while the President failed to mention his intent to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that doesn’t recognize gay marriages performed in other states and adheres to the traditional definition of marriage, the Obama administration has made it clear that it won’t defend the anti-gay aspect of DOMA in court.
Still, what Obama did this morning was what the millions who voted have always demanded from him: he stood by his principles.
“I know what the polls show,” writes The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, “and I know he was pushed into it, but I still credit the president with doing the right thing. So much of this process reminds me of Lincoln weighing emancipation, even as he knew, in his heart, that slavery was a sin.”
That’s exactly right. So what if he was pressured into taking up this position by recent developments in his cabinet? So what if much of his base has been pushing him to defend gay marriage rights for the past four years? At least he finally did it. No amount of pressure or polling would convince someone the likes of Mitt Romney to come out in favor of gay rights. (Well, maybe polling. Mitt’s a sucker for the flip-flop.)
And why should the timing matter? It’s unfortunate that the President waited four years to take the position he has, but he’s first and foremost a politician. (I don’t believe him when he says that his views on gay marriage have “evolved” over time. I believe he was always for gay marriage but saw the issue as political suicide.)
The fight for civil rights doesn’t need one more martyr. It needs a leader, someone who’s going to stand up and say, “This isn’t right.” Sure, the president’s disclosure today will do little to budge Congress one way or the other on the matter, but America is still the better for it. The move is largely symbolic.
And that’s all the Obama presidency has been, really: a symbol, of what America could be if we just appealed to “the better angels of our nature.”
Also, with this move, Obama draws an even clearer distinction between himself and the opposition. That’s not to demonize the Republicans; I’m just saying that they’re unlike Obama and many of the voters in his base.
This article first appeared in Being Latino.
Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., is an associate editor at Being Latino and a native son of Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.[Photo taken from video screen shot]