by Joshua Foxworth
This issue of marriage is not as simple as it seems on the surface. It is not simply about allowing two people to have the same rights with respect to hospital visitation or property rights. Marriage involves the role of the federal government and the states, the classification of rights with the U.S., and the rights of Americans to hold their own viewpoints.
President Obama's views on marriage do not merely affect what he calls two people of the same sex who chose to remain in a committed relationship. His views show a marked change in legal and constitutional theory that has tremendous implications.
Prior to becoming president, Barack Obama repeatedly asserted that marriage was not a "civil right." This goes back to his debate with Alan Keyes in 2004, in which he clearly and repeatedly asserted that marriage was not a civil right, but that property matters and hospital visitation were. After becoming president, Obama compared the struggle for marriage to that of the civil rights struggles of African-Americans. Since Obama's endorsement of gay marriage, the White House website now clearly classifies marriage under the civil rights tab. Thus, marriage was not a civil rights issue before Obama was president, and now it is.
In multiple interviews and debates, Senator Obama asserted that the issue of marriage was one to be decided by the states. He noted that the federal government simply did not have a constitutional role in marriage. However, not long after assuming office, the president endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act. While the White House website asserts that this legislation is intended to prevent the federal government from denying rights to same-sex couples, simply reading the summary of the bill shows that this is not the case. The legislation clearly states that it would repeal the parts of DOMA that allow a state to decide for itself how to define marriage, and force a marriage carried out in one state to be recognized in all states. Thus, marriage was a states' rights issue prior to the Obama presidency, and now it is not.
Finally, there is the issue of faith. In 2004, State Senator Obama clearly and articulately denoted his view that his faith dictated the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. In his interview to endorse gay marriage, the president asserted that his faith dictated that we should treat others as we would like to be treated. Without addressing the problems with this assertion and the questions it raises about the president's knowledge of his faith, consider this: as little as three years ago, the president's faith told him that marriage was between one man and one woman, and now it tells him the opposite.
So within the timespan of three years, President Obama has changed his views on where marriage falls within the realm of rights, changed his views on state and federal jurisdiction on marriage, and changed his religious and moral views to go from defining marriage as one man and one woman to maintaining that it is something else.
Now that the scope of the president's evolving views has been established, the question remains as to whether the president has always supported gay marriage -- or have his views legitimately changed? Neither of those possibilities is good from a political standpoint.
First, if the American people believe that the president lied to them about his views, then the 2012 election is all but over. Consider the president's actions after taking office: he pushed for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell; he issued two memorandums, one for establishing the same rights for same-sex couples where one was a federal employee and the other for preventing hospitals that take Medicare and Medicaid from preventing visitations to same-sex partners; he supported the Respect for Marriage Act; he spoke often to the LGBT community about "the goal" and his desire to see it reached; and he has now classified the matter as a civil right. Most of these things were done before the president's supposed change of heart, and there seems to be no defining issue or moment by which the president can state he was prompted to have this evolution in his view.
Additionally, the entire roll-out of this new view point is contrived. First, the education secretary admits to supporting gay marriage, and then the vice president lets it be known that he supports it, and finally the president admits that his views have changed. This series of events was not accidental. Arne Duncan was used as a tool to introduce the issue, and he and Vice President Biden were used as softeners to ready the American people for the idea of a pro-gay marriage president. They were buffers to get the American people talking about the issue and an excuse to raise it with the president. By doing this, the president is not questioned as to what prompted the change or when it happened. He can simply point to the people around him and assert that his views have "evolved" just like everyone else's.
If the Republican Party can cement the belief that President Obama lied about his view to get elected and has been pursuing a pro-gay marriage agenda since he came to office, then the idea that he is lying about other facets of his ideology will be an easy sell.
The second option is that the president had a legitimate change of heart. The obvious problem this raises is that if he can change his mind on this issue from both a moral and legal point of view, he can surely change it on other issues. Thus, nothing the president says in his campaign speeches or literature can be believed. However, if you are shocked that the president can change his mind on matters, I have hours of health care debates on CSPAN for you to watch before you go to your "shovel-ready" job that cuts the deficit in half.
No matter which of these theories you believe, the next question to ask is the same. It is also the most important question, and the one that no one is asking. During the 2008 election, Senator Obama stated that it was up to churches to decide what they recognized as marriage. Since assuming office, the Obama administration has been very vocal in its support for the "It Gets Better" program. President Obama and numerous members of his administration have made videos for the program. Recently, the founder of this program gave a hate-filled rant against Christians for their bullying of the LGBT community. So the question that remains is this: "Will the president's views evolve to a point where it is no longer a matter of choice for churches and synagogues to recognize only the marriages they see fit?"
Before you answer that question, remember the new viewpoint expressed by President Obama: marriage is now a civil right, and states should not be able to "deny" marriage rights to a couple. No one can deny a person a civil right, and no state law can take that right away. Thus, no one can deny a same-sex couple their civil right to hold a ceremony in the same place where traditional marriage couples hold their ceremonies.
The implementation of these policies will not be immediate or obvious. Given the president's citation of troops in his statement supporting gay marriage, the likely path to the establishment of national gay marriage will be a military couple married in one state and stationed in another by the military. This situation will be cited as "no fault of their own," and the president will assert that one state cannot deny rights to a couple whose only desire is to serve their country. The next obvious step will be a national definition of marriage to prevent a patchwork of laws in 50 states from causing someone to lose his or her civil rights. Once this is established, the ability to deny someone the same use of a facility as any other couple will be an easy sell.
Joshua Foxworth is the owner and editor of ThePoliticalGuide.com, a site dedicated to impartial summaries of political positions and controversies for representatives and candidates and to providing election information.
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