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President Obama revealed his change in opinion on gay marriage in a May 9 interview with Robin Roberts of Good Morning America. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.
President Obama revealed his change in opinion on gay marriage in a May 9 interview with Robin Roberts of Good Morning America. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

Obama's Revolving Opinion on Gay Marriage

May 30, 2012

On Tuesday North Carolina did something that South Dakota did back in 2006. The Tar Heel State doubled down against gay marriage. Passed by an overwhelming margin, Amendment One wrote an existing ban on same sex marriage into the state constitution.

As North Carolina was making up its collective mind, President Obama brought his opinion out of the closet, as it were, and said “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

The President described his opinion as “evolving,” though revolving would be more accurate. In 1996, Mr. Obama went on record as favoring same sex marriage. In 2004, running for US Senate, he said: "I do believe that tradition and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman." Now he has come full circle. Meanwhile Mitt Romney revolved in the opposite direction. He was all for gay marriage before he was dead set against it. At the risk of cynicism, allow me to suggest that both men revolved more out of political calculation than soul-searching.

The people of the Rushmore State and the Tar Heel State might wonder what the President’s declaration means for their own control over their domestic laws. Six states have legal same sex marriage, in several cases due to action by state courts. Thirty states have passed laws defining marriage as a union of a man and woman, all of them by popular referendum. Will the President try to impose his “personal” view on the states?

He told ABC News that this was a matter that should be left to the states, allowing them to arrive “at different conclusions at different times." I call this a very reasonable position, which is to say that I agree with the President. I am personally in favor of legal same sex marriage. I do not believe that it is required by the Constitution or that it should be imposed on the states by Washington.

I am just not sure that this really is the President’s position. Aside from the question of whither he will evolve next, once he is safely reelected, it is logically inconsistent with the actions of his own Justice Department. Attorney General Holder has stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act, on the grounds that denying federal recognition of same sex marriages violates the Equal Protection Clause. If that is true, then state bans are unconstitutional as well.

I don’t blame Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney for shifting about in search of positions that they can sell to the voters. That is in their job description. I do think South Dakotans and North Carolinians have a right to know who is behind them and who is not. I have no idea what Romney thinks but I can guess what he will do. I am pretty sure what the President thinks. It’s harder to guess what he does next. 

Dr. Ken Blanchard is a professor of Political Science at Northern State University and writes for the Aberdeen American News and the blog South Dakota Politics.


04:23 am - Thu, May 31 2012
dave tunge said:
Informative read Ken, but I have to disagree on no placement of blame on either man as they pander to the voters. We, as a nation, have become too accepting of the fact that we vote for the best liar. It's a win-at-all-costs game which forces the candidates to never make a committment that they cannot change or deny if the winds shift for them.
06:55 am - Thu, May 31 2012
anonymous said:
Guess I'm kinda dumb on gay marriage but what the hell difference does it make to you or me if the gays are all ready living together what's the difference if they are married or not. Seems to me all folks should be treated equal.

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