I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan was even clearer this morning. When asked by Mark Halperin whether he believed “that same-sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States?” Duncan replied, “Yes, I do.”
Naturally political observers were interested in these statements, as they appeared to be a split from the President, who does not support gay marriage. But then Obama advisor David Axelrod tweeted over the weekend:
What VP said-that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights-is precisely POTUS’s position.
Umm…What? ”Precisely POTUS’ postion”? Not exactly. The only way to make gay marriage the same as straight marriage is…to make it the same. That means full marriage equality.
The reason marriage equality continues to dog the President is not just the merits, but how he is handling it. When we elected Barack Obama, we thought we were ushering in a new era of leadership. We thought we were done with politicians sticking their finger in the wind and hair-splitting distinctions like “it depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” That’s the politics of the past, of which Americans have grown tired and weary. But yet here is our President trying to be on both sides of a gut issue. He wants us to believe that he supports ”same legal rights,” while at the same time trying to appease conservatives by opposing gay marriage. He calls his bet-hedging “evolving,” a strange political metaphor if there ever were one.
As Obama is desperately trying to time his wave, he is missing the set. Gay marriage is no longer a liberal issue. Take a look at the marriage equality ruck on Ruck.us, which is a microcosm of the larger debate. While it has its objectors, it has attracted support from the far left, the far right, and a lot of people in between who see this as a basic civil rights issue.
Perhaps this is why, as Ruck.us Advisor Mark McKinnon points out in the Daily Beast this morning, the President is struggling to close the deal with younger voters. These voters, who turned out in droves for him in 2008, are far less reluctant to back him in 2012. While the economy and jobs are still the number one issue for them, they overwhelmingly support marriage equality, and they are turned off by insincerity in their leaders. What’s worse, younger voters aren’t now going for Mitt Romney; they are going for no one. They are disengaged, unlikely to vote, and at the start of their voting career, already disenchanted with their leaders.