It would be easy to blame the Beltway logjam in gay civil rights progress on the cultural warriors of the religious right and its political host, the Republican Party. But it would be inaccurate. The right has lost much of its clout in the capital and, as President Obama's thoughtful performance at Notre Dame dramatized last weekend, its shrill anti-abortion-rights extremism now plays badly even in supposedly friendly confines. [...]
So what's stopping the Democrats from rectifying that legacy now? As Wolfson said to me last week, they lack "a towering national figure to make the moral case" for full gay civil rights. There's no one of that stature in Congress now that Ted Kennedy has been sidelined by illness, and the president shows no signs so far of following the example of L.B.J., who championed black civil rights even though he knew it would cost his own party the South. When Obama invoked same-sex marriage in an innocuous joke at the White House correspondents' dinner two weeks ago -- he and his political partner, David Axelrod, went to Iowa to "make it official" -- it seemed all the odder that he hasn't engaged the issue substantively.