Today, in 2012, President Barack Obama told us that he has evolved to the point that former Vice President Dick Cheney had in 2004 regarding equal civil marriage rights for committed gay and lesbian couples.
The president's remarks today serve as a statement that he personally supports equal marriage rights. In making those remarks, the president underscored his belief that marriage remains a state issue.
Yet following President Obama's announcement, the Republican-leaning GOProud, defiantly grasping at straws, indicated that the president's remarks were cold comfort to people in North Carolina, a state with an election yesterday that changed the state's constitution in a manner that denies marriage rights to same-sex couples. GOProud made this statement, despite knowing that campaigns await in many other states on this very issue. And, even more hypocritically, they have not similarly attacked the GOP's candidate, Mitt Romney, who has opposed equal marriage rights at the state level (the state in which I both met and married my husband) and has recently underscored in Denver his opposition to civil unions. Highlighting the GOP's position on this issue, an issue for which GOProud is attempting to gratuitously attack the president rather than look inward, two-time New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson was run out of the Republican Party primary earlier this year, in part because of his support of full equal marriage rights. As a result Gov. Johnson left the party and now has become the nominee of the Libertarian Party.
What does all this boil down to legally in the short term? Not much. Little will change immediately at the federal level because of the president's statement today. It's doubtless psychologically meaningful for many people to hear a sitting president support their relationships, and it's also great for the president to reiterate that marriage is a state issue. Moreover, both of these positions are in stark contrast to President Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, who attempted to not only denigrate existing civil marriages between gay and lesbian couples but to federalize what had been a states'-rights issue with his proposed federal marriage amendment.
But if you're a single-issue voter and you're in favor of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, you now have a choice that at least includes President Obama and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who has more political executive experience than Mitt Romney, a one-term governor, and Sarah Palin, a half-term governor, combined.
And if you're a single-issue voter and you're opposed to equal civil marriage rights and also are opposed to civil unions for committed same-sex couples, you have choices, too, most notably Willard Mitt Romney.
For those readers interested in pocketbook issues of personal economics as well as issues of family values, keep in mind that "marriage" at both state and federal levels includes more than 1,000 rights and obligations. So, for example, if inheritance taxes, child tax credits, property transfer taxes, pension rights, social security survivorship benefits, applying for a loan (say a mortgage) that requires your (or your friend's, or some other third party's) married partner's income to qualify (perhaps keeping property values afloat), or ensuring that your (or your friend's) married partner's child is covered under a family health insurance policy matter to you, then the distinction between President Obama, Governor Johnson, and Governor Romney may matter more than the typical "single issue" matters to most voters. Put simply, a whole host of rights and obligations follow the word "marriage" at the state and federal levels.
And none of these items affects a church's right to continue to exclude recognizing the marriages (or dignity) of committed lesbian and gay couples.