Wednesday, May 9, 2012

One Cheer for North Carolina

So North Carolina joined the ranks of those states that decided that the definition of “marriage” should be determined by secular law, rather than the laws associated with any religious belief or those grounded in the morals of a personal atheistic belief. By a large margin the voters approved a constitutional amendment that bans both same-sex marriage and civil unions. Furthermore, when we look at the advertising in support of this method, which was included in the Democracy Now! report of this story, it is clear that those promoting the amendment were doing so on profoundly religious grounds, far too passionate to have anything to do with any legal provisions concerned with separation of church and state.

Leading up to this election, both Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave the media explicit statements in favor of gay marriage. What the media chose to report, however, was the extent to which Biden’s remarks may have caused consternation in the office of President Barack Obama, who has treated this issue with extreme delicacy. This is what brings us to why North Carolina deserves a cheer.

Apparently those voters seem to have alerted Obama to the fact that this matter simply cannot be handled with such delicacy. Whether he was responding to the hate-based advertising preceding the election or to the large numbers of voters who followed the lead of that advertising, Obama finally decided to put his neutrality on the shelf. He gave an interview to Robin Roberts of ABC News, which, according to the BBC News account, included the following remarks:
I've stood on the side of broader equality for the LGBT community. I hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient. 
I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word “marriage” was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth. 
But I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I talked to friends and family and neighbours, 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.
Perhaps Obama is finally remembering what got him elected in the first place: the ways in which he provided hope to those who felt that they had lost all chances of finding someone who would represent them in Washington on the basis of their efforts to find a better life, rather than political expediency. Perhaps Obama finally recognized that elections are based on emotional decisions, rather than rational ones, and that all of his efforts to be rationally deliberative had lost him the support of those who had committed every ounce of their emotions to his support in 2008. Yes, this may mean that Obama has recognized the need to think like a politician, rather than a “rational executive;” but it will only be through shrewd politics that he will be able to win back the enthusiastic support he had rallied four years ago. Let us hope that today’s back-at-you statement to North Carolina is the first step in a long journey he needs to make (and perhaps we should remember to thank North Carolina to provoking him into taking that step).

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