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Would marriage really derail the big O?

by Jeremy Hooper

Snap out of your Dinah hangovers and temporarily curb your "L" withdrawals, ladies; we've got some serious schtuff to discuss. Namely, we need to talk about Barack Obama. More specifically, it's his stance on marriage and civil unions about which we need to kibitz.

The dealie: Last week, the Democratic wet dream appeared on CNN's "The Situation Room," where he shared this exchange with anchor Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: Should there be gay marriage? If you were president, would you push to allow gay marriage in the United States?

OBAMA: Well, I think that "marriage" has a religious connotation in this society, in our culture, that makes it very difficult to disentangle from the civil aspects of marriage. And as a consequence it's almost -- it would be extraordinarily difficult and distracting to try to build a consensus around marriage for gays and lesbians.

What we can do is form civil unions that provide all the civil rights that marriage entails to same sex couples. And that is something that I have consistently been in favor of. And I think that the vast majority of Americans don't want to see gay and lesbian couples discriminated against, when it comes to hospital visitations and so on.

Okay, so before getting into this at all, let me acknowledge that I'm fully aware of how political games are played. Strategists say full support for marriage equality would be the death knell of any presidential campaign, and civil unions are considered the safe route. Even if Mr. Obama truly, secretly supports our right to full marriage equality, matters of electability often trump principled stands. I get it.

But here's the thing: It is completely unacceptable for Mr. Obama to pass the buck and blame his nonsupport of same-sex marriage on the American public's inability to disconnect the civil and religious aspects of marriage! He shouldn't just say that it's difficult to "disentangle" the civil from the religious and call it a day. They already are disentangled! What gay rights advocates are seeking is CIVIL MARRIAGE! The religious aspect is up to the individual religious sects, their clergy, and their congregations. What we need to see more from in our leaders is a commitment to pointing out this difference, and a commitment to showing people how denying this legal contract to gay couples on the basis of religion is unconstitutional!

I am beyond sick of Obama, Clinton, etc. looking to civil unions as a convenient stopping off point on the road to full equality, and then trying to paint these separate and NOT equal legal contracts as non-discriminatory. They are and always will be inequitable! In washing over the difference, these supposedly progressive candidates are allowing social conservatives to get away with marrying one-sided religious views with governance, while telling gay and lesbian couples that their tax dollars only qualify them for an institution that others will, in fact, always view as "lesser than."

Mr. Obama has in the past indicated that he doesn't yet support same-sex marriage, but that he might "evolve" on the issue. If this is how he feels, then this is what he needs to continue to say. However, it's offensive to everyone for him to pass the buck and make it sound like he would be okay with marriage equality if only the American public could wrap their heads around the concept. He is interviewing for a job, and we need to see that he is of his own principled mind. He needs to lead the people and show them the way, not kowtow to one group's desire for church/state marriage!

Again, I fully understand that my "principle before politics" views sound a bit utopic and that everyone seeking high office plays the hand that they see most advantageous. However, they should not play a hand that propagates a false notion. The religious argument is the one most readily used to keep us legally single. Obama, Clinton (and Edwards, Gore, Dean, Pelosi, et al) need to help us nip this flawed argument in the bud, not further muddy the waters of this CIVIL rights fight!

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