Sure, while running for the Illinois Senate in 1996, Barack Obama stated he was for same-sex marriage. But he’s said nothing since then to suggest he wants marriage equality. In fact, his official stance is marriage is for one man and one woman. So why do his supporters think deep down, behind the political speak that apparently runs the risk of offending some, rests a man whose convictions have him supporting marriage rights for gays and lesbians? When Obama’s official position is no more pro-equality than, say, John McCain’s, why does anyone believe Obama is more in favor of gay marriage than Republicans who say they are not? New Republic‘s James Kirchick:
People cannot conceive that such a cosmopolitan and eloquent man as Obama would disagree with them on an issue that they consider a no-brainer.
This is convenient for liberals because it allows them to deflect blame from politicians they like onto those they don’t, namely conservatives, the sincerity of whose opposition to same-sex marriage they never challenge. If only Republicans desisted in their homophobia, this narrative goes, justifiably timid liberals would come out of their closets of prevarication, so to speak, and support gay marriage unambiguously.
Framing gay rights as a strictly partisan issue also allows liberals to obscure the awkward fact that while they are more likely than conservatives to support same-sex marriage, a key Democratic constituency, African Americans, overwhelmingly opposes it.
Obama’s history on the issue does have a complicating twist. On a 1996 Illinois Senate race questionnaire, Obama (or more likely a staffer) wrote, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” Liberals take from this revelation the assumption that Obama’s apparent flip was insincere.