While campaigning for the Illinois state senate in 1996, Obama declared his approval of gay marriage. But now that he is president he has found political religion.
“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” Obama now says. “For me as a Christian it is almost a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”
Since half the marriages in America end in divorce, presumably God is in that mix, too.
A headline in the San Francisco Chronicle expressed puzzlement at Obama’s reversal on the issue. No puzzlement at all.
Obama fears alienating voters. But he fails to realize that people who oppose gay marriage won’t vote for him anyway.
The question for any opponent of gay marriage: How can any purported Christian be against happiness? That’s what gay marriage is all about, even above the marital benefits of wedlock.
Britain’s Quakers at their annual meeting last summer in York agreed “to treat same-sex, committed relationships in the same way as opposite-sex marriages.”
California voters, most of whom are presumably Christian, passed the obnoxious Proposition 8 in 2008 barring gay marriage. The proposition cemented inequality and discrimination in the state constitution. So much for the wisdom of the people.
A battle over gay marriage is being fought in a federal court in San Francisco because of a constitutional challenge to Proposition 8. A lawyer arguing for the law said procreation was an important reason for heterosexual marriage.
Presiding Judge Vaughn Walker was unimpressed by that argument. “The last marriage I performed involved a groom who was 95 and the bride who was 83,” he said. “It was a very happy relationship.”
Opposition to same-sex marriage is bigotry. It’s that deeply engrained bigotry that once kept gays in the closet. It’s the bigotry that in the late 1960s made homosexuality illegal in every state except Illinois.
Now look at another obnoxious policy: gays and lesbians in the military. They are subject to the don’t ask-don’t tell law enacted by Congress in 1993.
“The law was always pointless and cruel,” the New York Times noted. “The policy of drumming gay men and lesbians out of the military service is based on prejudice, not performance.”
Under the law, about 13,500 service members, many who had important skills like Arabic translation, were fired. The policy is inhumane, costly and a failure.
Frank Rich, Times essayist whose Sunday think pieces about politics are must-reads, rightly calls the military policy “preposterous and disingenuous.”
The arguments for the policy are “mere fig leaves to disguise the phobia that can no longer dare speak its name,” he writes. “If gay Americans are to be granted full equality, the flimsy rhetorical camouflage must be stripped away to expose the prejudice that lies beneath.”
Gays and lesbians serve in the armed forces of about 30 nations, including Britain and Canada. They serve effectively, fill the ranks seamlessly and demolish the canard of destroying unit cohesion.
Where does Obama stand in face of this injustice? He said in the State of the Union message that he favored the end of the policy. Fine. But for a year he has not used the bully pulpit to denounce the policy.
Dahr Jamail of the online Truthout showed far less caution: “Homophobia manifests itself in the worst form of discrimination in the military, surpassing even racism. Instead of enabling recruits to vanquish their prejudices and strengthening the individual and the collective spirit, all military training seems to be geared toward invoking the darkest elements in human nature: fear, hatred, pettiness and insecurity.”
Adm. Mike Mullen, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Forces Committee last month: “We have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. It comes down to integrity, theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”
But that integrity is not likely to be demonstrated anytime soon. The Pentagon is reviewing the policy, which could take “forever.” And then repeal is problematical because the Congress is packed with mossbacks.
Sen. John McCain, who Rich rightly calls “the crazy man in Washington’s attic,” fulminated against repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Sen. Saxby Chambliss, leading cretin in Georgia, testified that gays and lesbians would damage the military. (We once heard similar arguments for keeping black and white troops separate.)
Thoreau inadvertently addressed such crazies and cretins in a speech defending John Brown: “We talk about a representative government but what a monster of a government is that where the noblest faculties of the mind and the whole heart are not represented.”
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.