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Socarides: The sooner Obama changes his answer on marriage, the better off he will be

Friend of the Blend, former special assistant and senior advisor to President Bill Clinton Richard Socarides, has a piece at The Politico, where he notes that President Obama missed an opportunity with the Prop 8 ruling last week to shift his hardline “God is in the mix” opposition to marriage equality. Obama is backed into a corner now (he supported it in 1996, so he’s politically regressed), and he’s going to be forced into accepting the truth that he knows as a constitutional scholar quite soon.

First, where you stand on the issue of marriage has become a kind of political litmus test for gay voters on whether you support full or partial equality. It is now seen as a proxy for whether you believe gays and lesbians are entitled to full dignity, respect and inclusion in every aspect of American society. And whether, in essence, our struggle for equality is worthy as a civil rights movement. Just saying you are for equal rights will no longer cut it.

…Support for equal benefits, but not for equal status – a gay “separate but equal” rule – is contrary to what Obama stands for, both as a person and as a symbol of expanding freedoms and opportunities. Continuing on this course will lose him and his fellow Democrats the support and enthusiasm of a large block of his base voters.

…People understand that most public officials who now support gay marriage once opposed it. It wasn’t until after they left office that Bill Clinton and Al Gore (and, most recently, Laura Bush) said that they favored marriage equality. As Nate Silver recently wrote on his blog “Does anyone really believe, in a country that is becoming close to evenly divided on gay marriage, that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Kerry are among the half who oppose it? ”

The sooner Obama changes his answer on this most important equal-rights issue of the day, the better off he will be. The Perry ruling provides the right opportunity to shift his emphasis and provide real leadership, reminding people that in this country, we look to the courts for direction on what our Constitution requires.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding