It was not exactly a profile in courage. More like a case of “leading from behind.” But today, President Obama finally came out and said it:
“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
Publicly, at least, Obama comes to that conclusion later than most of his fellow Americans. In a Gallup poll a year ago (see chart below), a majority of Americans for the first time said they support allowing gay couples to marry.
However, that support is clearly not distributed equally across the country, as Tuesday’s vote in North Carolina affirms. Even there, however, the measure banning gay marriage or even civil unions was rejected soundly in the state’s urban centers of Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham.
As a legal matter and political matter, there’s no real suspense in how this all works out. Gay marriage is going to be legalized. It’s also hard to imagine how the Supreme Court is going to allow states to refuse to honor legal contracts — and that’s what marriage, gay or otherwise, is — that are legally created in other states.
The only question is the time involved. In that regard, Republicans will use Obama’s statement behind the scenes to stir up social conservatives already likely to vote against him anyway, but they won’t dare to use it in general campaign ads, out of fear of being seen as intolerant and hateful. And that tells you a lot.
It’s also interesting to compare the evolution of public opinion on this issue to the evolution of opinion on interracial marriage. The trajectory has been similar, and in fact support for gay marriage has risen slightly more quickly than support for interracial marriage did.
– Jay Bookman