June 30, 2011 | by Peter Rosenstein
Obama should follow Cuomo’s lead on marriage

Jonathan Capehart, writing this week in the Washington Post, made many strong points regarding the passage of marriage equality in New York.

I agree with him when he writes, “Cuomo’s victory in New York has raised the bar on leadership and the gay community’s expectations. Patience with Obama’s evolutionary process has run out.” But I disagree when he says, “Unlike Cuomo, the president doesn’t have a coalition of gay and lesbian groups and deep-pocketed donors all working together to get him to say ‘I do’ and to have his back after he does it.”

It may be unfortunate that HRC rushed its Obama endorsement in its effort to raise millions of dollars for him before he “evolves,” but if Obama quietly indicated to a group of individuals that he was ready to “fully evolve,” the group that Capehart says isn’t there would be formed quickly.

There are many groups of donors, both large and small, and an army of volunteers ready to have his back. The young on college campuses are just waiting for an issue to excite them and get them as involved in this election as they were in 2008 and the debate over the economy isn’t doing it. Recent polls of youth show that they overwhelmingly support marriage equality, by as much as 75 percent. This is the type of issue that can excite them. There are also politicians and clergy in every state who will join with just plain folk who are ready to have his back on this issue. The coalition forged in New York included Republicans, Democrats and independents and that coalition can be forged nationally on this issue when the president is ready to lead. All the national polling shows that this issue is no longer a losing one. All indications point to the fact that those who will decide their vote on this issue alone will most likely not vote for President Obama anyway.

The president won’t be considered a leader on this issue as long as he is making innocuous statements about wanting full rights and then saying he leaves it to the people in each state to fight it out. At some point soon he will have to change from avoiding the issue, to letting people close to him know he is ready to come out in support of marriage equality and ask for their help in working behind the scenes to build that coalition of support that will have his back.

I understand and respect that by nature President Obama is a careful and thoughtful person. After all, he was a constitutional law professor. But on this issue many think he has already evolved.

The president should take some pointers from the way New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke to groups on marriage equality. Cuomo urged those who were uncomfortable with the word marriage to focus instead on the second word, equality, and make their decision of support based on that. It is said that among those who influenced Cuomo on this issue were his girlfriend and his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who reportedly said to his son, “What is it you want to be remembered for in your first six months as governor, balancing the budget or moving forward civil rights for millions of Americans?” Andrew Cuomo chose the latter and I believe in his heart that Barack Obama would have done the same.

It is time for the president to assume the mantle of leadership. While some say it is already too late on this issue I disagree. There is a long way to go before all gay and lesbian Americans are able to marry and enjoy all the rights and responsibilities civil marriage confers.

With the right background work and preparation the president and his wife (and yes this is a place where I hope that Michelle Obama will join with her husband) should be able to stand in front of the TV cameras and speak to the nation about equality and what full equality and civil rights means for all Americans. The president should tell the nation that when some of our people are not fully free and equal under our civil laws, no one is.

There are millions of people out there of all parties, all faiths, all ages, with millions of dollars, who will have his back when he indicates that he is ready to lead on marriage equality.

5 Comments
  • Really, who gives a rats ass about what Obama says or thinks or if he evolves or not. He’s just not important. What really matters are the opinions of a whole generation of young GLBT militants and activists, radicalized by the Obama generated defeats of same sex marriage in 2008 in California, Florida and Arizona who took to the streets in nationwide demonstrations that peaked with the 2009 200,000 strong March on Washington. That March was bitterly opposed by most Democrats who sensed, correctly, that it would become an anti-Obama rally. It did. It also had the effect of shocking Obama and the Congress into passing and signing the limp ‘Hate Crimes Bill”.

    The absurdity of electioneering raised it head again and the movement was put on hold for the 2010 elections which had a big surprise for Democrats. Because they’d betrayed everyone but the banksters and the military industrial complex, they were summarily abandoned by 30 million of those who voted for Obama.

    Now we’re in for more election hoopla and hopey/changey/evolvy. But with the WH, Congress and the courts firmly in the hands of right wing Democrats and Republicans not much is going to change.
    Just before the vote in New York Obama met with two groups. The first was with GLBT misleaders who attended a $1250.00 a plate dinner for his campaign where he declined to endorse our rights as he did again today. Then Obama moved on to the real business of the night, dinner at Daniel, a very expensive venue where Wall Street banksters paid $35,800 per plate to have the ear of the man who’s given them trillions in bailouts, in donations to insurance companies as part of his ‘heath care’ scam, in hundreds of billions in ‘stimulus’ boondoggles and to subsidize the losses of banksters caught in the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debacles.

    There’ll be much more of the same. According to Bloomberg via AmericaBlog Obama is soliciting “donors who pledge $75,800 to the Obama Victory Fund”, who’ll be named “Presidential Partners”. According to AmericaBlog “you would have to be a fool to miss the connection between the meek financial reform that the White House promoted and his campaign contributions. Also, let’s think for a moment about the extension of tax breaks for the wealthy. If you are not part of the deep pocket crowd, you’re really not very important to this administration…”

    Obama and the Congressional Democrats repeatedly betrayed environmentalists and imprisoned and tortured GLBT-antiwar hero Brad Manning. They prosecuted, at a horrifying loss in lives to civilians and GIs, six (and counting) wars of naked, ugly aggression to steal land, oil, resources and military bases. They betrayed unions and busted the UAW. And then there’s us, the perennial under the bus crowd.
    Unions are threatening to cut him off at the knees, politically speaking, by withdrawing support and contributions.

    From my point of view that can’t happen too soon and then we can rename them Whigs and continue to fight our other enemies, the Republicans.

    On Tuesday, November 6th, 2012, forget the bigot. Vote socialist, vote left or just sit it out. Instead of worrying about which right wing candidate wins concentrate on building mass movements to win our agenda.

  • Really, who gives a rats ass about what Obama says or thinks or if he evolves or not. He’s just not important. What really matters are the opinions of a whole generation of young GLBT militants and activists, radicalized by the Obama generated defeats of same sex marriage in 2008 in California, Florida and Arizona who took to the streets in nationwide demonstrations that peaked with the 2009 200,000 strong March on Washington. That March was bitterly opposed by most Democrats who sensed, correctly, that it would become an anti-Obama rally. It did. It also had the effect of shocking Obama and the Congress into passing and signing the limp ‘Hate Crimes Bill”.

    The absurdity of electioneering raised it head again and the movement was put on hold for the 2010 elections which had a big surprise for Democrats. Because they’d betrayed everyone but the banksters and the military industrial complex, they were summarily abandoned by 30 million of those who voted for Obama.

    Now we’re in for more election hoopla and hopey/changey/evolvy. But with the WH, Congress and the courts firmly in the hands of right wing Democrats and Republicans not much is going to change.

    Just before the vote in New York Obama met with two groups. The first was with GLBT misleaders who attended a $1250.00 a plate dinner for his campaign where he declined to endorse our rights as he did again today. Then Obama moved on to the real business of the night, dinner at Daniel, a very expensive venue where Wall Street banksters paid $35,800 per plate to have the ear of the man who’s given them trillions in bailouts, in donations to insurance companies as part of his ‘heath care’ scam, in hundreds of billions in ‘stimulus’ boondoggles and to subsidize the losses of banksters caught in the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debacles.

    There’ll be much more of the same. According to Bloomberg via AmericaBlog Obama is soliciting “donors who pledge $75,800 to the Obama Victory Fund”, who’ll be named “Presidential Partners”. According to AmericaBlog “you would have to be a fool to miss the connection between the meek financial reform that the White House promoted and his campaign contributions. Also, let’s think for a moment about the extension of tax breaks for the wealthy. If you are not part of the deep pocket crowd, you’re really not very important to this administration…”

    Obama and the Congressional Democrats repeatedly betrayed environmentalists and imprisoned and tortured GLBT-antiwar hero Brad Manning. They prosecuted, at a horrifying loss in lives to civilians and GIs, six (and counting) wars of naked, ugly aggression to steal land, oil, resources and military bases. They betrayed unions and busted the UAW. And then there’s us, the perennial under the bus crowd.
    Unions are threatening to cut him off at the knees, politically speaking, by withdrawing support and contributions.

    From my point of view that can’t happen too soon and then we can rename them Whigs and continue to fight our other enemies, the Republicans.

    On Tuesday, November 6th, 2012, forget the bigot. Vote socialist, vote left or just sit it out. Instead of worrying about which right wing candidate wins concentrate on building mass movements to win our agenda.

  • Really, who gives a rats ass about what Obama says or thinks or if he evolves or not. He’s just not important. What really matters are the opinions of a whole generation of young GLBT militants and activists, radicalized by the Obama generated defeats of same sex marriage in 2008 in California, Florida and Arizona who took to the streets in nationwide demonstrations that peaked with the 2009 200,000 strong March on Washington. That March was bitterly opposed by most Democrats who sensed, correctly, that it would become an anti-Obama rally. It did. It also had the effect of shocking Obama and the Congress into passing and signing the limp ‘Hate Crimes Bill”.

    Obama and the Congressional Democrats repeatedly betrayed environmentalists and imprisoned and tortured GLBT-antiwar hero Brad Manning. They prosecuted, at a horrifying loss in lives to civilians and GIs, six (and counting) wars of naked, ugly aggression to steal land, oil, resources and military bases. They betrayed unions and busted the UAW. And then there’s us, the perennial under the bus crowd.

    Unions are threatening to cut him off at the knees, politically speaking, by withdrawing support and contributions. From my point of view that can’t happen too soon and then we can rename them Whigs and continue to fight our other enemies, the Republicans.

    On Tuesday, November 6th, 2012, forget the bigot. Vote socialist, vote left or just sit it out. Instead of worrying about which right wing candidate wins concentrate on building mass movements to win our agenda.

  • One issue voters deserve to have their voting priviliges revoked. ‘Nuff said.

  • President Obama has been the most progressive President on LGBT issues in our nation’s history. While that bar wasn’t very high to begin with, he promised to sign the bill overturning DADT and worked to get the bill through Congress, albeit largely behind the scenes. His Justice Department pledged not to enforce DOMA.

    Given this and other things he has done for the LGBT community, I do not know why there is a huge push for him to come out in favor of marriage equality right now. 2012 is shaping up to be similar to 2008 in that conservatives are very much on the fence about their lackluster field of contenders for The White House. Many are already planning to sit out the election. Why on earth should Pres. Obama take a public position on this issue before the election and give them a reason to go out to the polls en masse. While it is not a polarizing issue for most Americans, it is for a number of conservatives. As Keith Boykin astutely tweeted a few weeks ago, very few people who know how to read between the lines think that Obama opposes marriage equality. Let’s read between the lines, folks. The President has winked and nodded enough on this issue (i.e. – I’m not enforcing DOMA and I support the Respect for Marriage Act) for us to be confident of his intentions, if reelected. That is a big “if.” What we supporters of marriage equality have to ask ourselves is whether it is more important to have the President publicly speak to that support and risk activating an anemic Republican base or sidestep the question and win reelection. I assure you, a President Romney or Bachmann would not be nearly as enlightened on our issues as President Obama has been and is. All reasonable people know that marriage equality is going to happen. As Peter Rosenstein points out, the majority of young people today support marriage equality. I fear that if President Obama speaks to full support of marriage equality now, the resulting Republican victory will actually delay the inevitable by 10-15 years. It could be longer if a liberal justice retires or dies with a Republican in The White House.

    While I understand the desire for the President to speak publicly in support of marriage equality, it does very little to help achieve it. Our best bet is to not energize the social conservatives and reelect President Obama. Following that strategy (remember, strategy is not a bad thing), we can actually make real progress towards achieving marriage equality.

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