Scarcity of Action
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 17:05
I support gay marriage and Obama’s affirmation of gay marriage. I also agree that Obama’s public support for the hot button social issue is a political, historical and symbolic moment for our country. But it is unwise to address such a controversial topic, because he may lose votes by taking such a concrete stance.
In an ABC “Good Morning America” interview President Obama stated 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.” President Obama justified this statement by explaining that this had been a personal issue that he needed to reconcile publicly.
President Obama also made it clear that his personal reasons for supporting gay marriage came from his desire to allow men and women serving in the armed forces, those within his own administration and his friends to be treated fairly and equally. He emphasized the theme of social equality as he reiterated that he had personally discussed the topic with his daughters and his wife, Michelle Obama.
At face value, it seems President Obama was making a heartfelt declaration, one that had been carefully planned and had been a long time coming.
However, it would behoove us to look at what was unclear in President Obama’s interview.
Why now? What prompted this sudden declaration on such a polarizing social issue?
With the upcoming presidential 2012 election, it is a bold, perhaps even dangerous, political move for Obama to declare his support of an issue that has America split right down the middle.
In a recent poll it was found that “currently 49 percent of Americans favor gay marriage, with 40 percent opposed.”
With the economy barely making a recovery, a Congress at each other’s throats and a public growing increasingly impatient of political blunders and shenanigans, President Obama needs all the votes he can get.
So how do we reconcile Obama’s sudden clarification with the potential of lost votes? By asking another question:
Is it merely coincidence that just days after Vice President Biden stated that he “is absolutely comfortable with same-sex marriage” that President Obama scheduled an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America?”
No. I do not think so. In fact, Obama’s interview is a shrewd political move.
In light of it being an election year, the Obama administration has been seeking to present Obama as a strong and decisive leader. To not answer the media’s questions, and skirt the subject of gay marriage, would have made Obama appear weak.
It is my belief that Obama was caught between a rock and a hard place. He did not wish to address a controversial topic, but due to Biden’s verbal slip it would have been worse had he not.
The hastily arranged ABC interview was Obama’s platform to clarify his position, while backing it up with personal justifications for why he was now discussing it.
But what is the significance of questioning Obama’s sudden support for gay marriage? How does it change what was affirmed? Furthermore, does it cheapen Obama’s support of same-sex marriage?
Yes, President Obama has publicly declared his support for gay marriage, yet he has done little to back up his words. Obama has made no move to demand same-sex marriage legislation. Also he continues to maintain that it is at the state’s discretion to decide the issue of gay marriage, effectively stunting any broad national change.
In a time where our country is bitterly divided, we desperately need strong leadership. To me, strong leadership is about action, not empty words. I challenge President Obama to electrify this issue by placing some weight behind his words. The time for symbolism is past. We need tangible change.
Claire Ingebretsen is a freshman political science major and editor of the Opinion section.