Joe Mirabella

Calling Obama's Bluff on Marriage

Filed By Joe Mirabella | February 24, 2011 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: DOMA, Freedom to Marry, marriage, president Obama

I don't believe President Obama still has to "evolve" on the freedom to marry for gays and lesbians. The President is the most supportive President in history on LGBT issues. obama_gay.jpgThis week's historic announcement that the DOJ will no longer defend Section 3 of DOMA is more proof.

I don't buy it, because we have the President on record, when he was in the Illinois legislature, "unequivocally" supporting marriage.

I don't believe a man with a Harvard education in constitutional law "struggles" with same-sex couples marrying. The concept is not a difficult one to grasp for people with even the slightest amount of intellectual curiosity.

I saw him hug members of our community when he signed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He was not afraid to embrace gay men in celebration. He is not a homophobic person. As his administration continues to move forward, he continues to prove that he can keep his promises to the LGBT community. Yes, there is more to do like pass a jobs and housing discrimination bill, but I will believe he will keep his promise on that when he sees the opportunity to win.

I don't believe his bluff on marriage. I think he always supported the freedom to marry, but he just has not admitted it nationally. Why?

Obama's acting a part for the American public. The elusive movable middle every pro-equality campaign director constantly woos is Obama's character.

By speaking publicly about his personal "struggle" with the freedom to marry, others can see themselves in him. "Yes, I'm struggling with that too. I don't quite get it yet," the movable middle can say to themselves.

Then, when the timing is perfect, Obama will reveal his great awakening. Maybe it will be presented with a same gender wedding at the White House, or following a historic win in the courts striking down DOMA for good. Maybe he will make the announcement when he signs legislation repealing the entirety of DOMA. Whenever it happens, it will be one of the greatest acts of theater during his presidency. Through his character of the "struggling American" he will be a living example of how people can change and become supporters of the freedom to marry. "My struggle is over. It is clear to me that love between two men or two women is exactly the same as the love I have for Michelle," he could say.

"If President Obama can change, maybe I can too," people will think.

This strategy of leadership is far more subtle than many of us would like to see, but if it works, then maybe our community should renew our love for theater - especially when our President is playing the lead role.


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Great piece Joe. Just a few weeks ago I would have argued with you. But this semester, I'm taking a class on strategic communications in which we talk a lot about the role of leaders and the actions they must take to move others. I've seen the light and I agree with you 110%. Obama does support us but he must get people to be with him in order to move with him.

I don't know what's going on in Obama's head, so I won't comment on that. All I'll say is that I have little faith in his ability to play 57-dimensional chess after the health care debacle.

I think you're kidding yourself, Joe. Obama and the Dems determined that doing this was politically advantageous for them going into the '12 election. It's the same kind of determination they made on ENDA when Obama was running for President.

The second they decide it's no longer in their own political interest to support repealing DOMA you'll never hear another word about it, just as was the case with ENDA once Obama won in '08.

I mean, how many more times does it have to happen before people start seeing the pattern here? We've been down this road many times before with the Democratic Party and it never ends well.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | February 24, 2011 5:31 PM

Come on, folks!

In a perfect world there would be no theater, political or otherwise. Eveything would be completely "as-is", transparent to the hilt, no fog before the sunlight.

Do I wish he'd just have come out and said he was a strong supporter of full marriage equality several years back as he was announcing for the presidential run.

I guess so.

Would John McCain now be our President and Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the briefcase with the codes?

Then the theatre curtain would have really fallen.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | February 24, 2011 5:33 PM

Come on, folks!

In a perfect world there would be no theater, political or otherwise. Eveything would be completely "as-is", transparent to the hilt, no fog before the sunlight.

Do I wish he'd just have come out and said he was a strong supporter of full marriage equality several years back as he was announcing for the presidential run.

I guess so.

Would John McCain now be our President and Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the briefcase with the codes?

Then the theatre curtain would have really fallen.

Drugs are bad mkay?

Anthony Carter | February 24, 2011 6:01 PM


"If President Obama can change, maybe I can too," people will think.

This is what I got from reading his book prior to casting my vote for him on that historical day. I love theatrics just as much as the next queen but wouldn't it be great to just look at our marriages as just marriages ? It will be a great day when we just are without the drama and hysterics that people love to assign us. Love the post Joe!!!

Maybe I'm a cock-eyed optimist (emphasis on the first part of the hyphenate), but I never thought I would see, in my lifetime, a US president supporting the rights of LGBTQ people; a president who made his own It Gets Better video; a president who is not afraid to openly embrace us.

I'm 46. My partner & I have been together 20 years, & can't marry. The state I live in (Indiana) is trying to write discrimination into our state Constitution. And yet, I have never felt so positive about the direction in which our president is moving.

Social change doesn't happen overnight. African Americans were freed as slaves almost 150 years ago, & it took this long to elect an African American as president. As they say, you have to pick your battles, & I'm sticking with Obama on his choices.

Michael@LeonardMatlovich.com | February 24, 2011 7:34 PM

Joe—you actually saw Obama HUG some Gays????? OH MY GODDESS! Really? Praise Jebus!

With all DUE respect, just put down the Kool Aid and step away from the Obambot Clown Car. You do your “argument” no good by beginning with parroting that ridiculous Obama Borg meme about his allegedly being “the most supportive President in history on LGBT issues.” That comes pretty close to being as absurd as giving him credit for being the “blackest President in history." Let’s consider some of his hot competition for most pro-gay: John Tyler, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. Arthur, Franklin Pierce, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Ronald Reagan, George Bush I, George Bush II....

In fact, even with his signatures on the DADT and DOMA bills, Clinton remains neck-and-neck with Obama, from being the first to hire dozens of out gay Administration appointees to officially ordering the reversal of the half-century ban on gay federal employees to expanding military law to include penalties for antigay hate crimes. [I guess "dturk" was in a coma during those events.]

WHAT’S THAT? But Obama repealed “Clinton’s DADT”? That’s certainly what the Borg would have us believe. But it was Congress that created DADT and it was Congress that kinda-repealed it. The most that anyone objective who studied the chain of events closely can say is that Obama finally got out of the way of the opportunity for repeal. [Maybe you missed VERY reluctant Obama critic Barney Frank saying last spring that he’d come to believe Obama did not WANT a vote on repeal last year, AND even a week before the final Senate vote, Sen. Levin saying that Obama was STILL not doing enough.]

And, one is forced to remind that DADT remains in effect with gays still being investigated SOLELY because Obama is still kowtowing to the Pentagon bigots who want to drag it out as long as possible. Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin: “The Pentagon could easily repeal the ban TODAY if there was the POLITICAL will.” – Washington Blade, January 6, 2011, emphasis mine.

Further, SOLELY because Obama backed Gates coup de Congress and let the original repeal bill that Obama PROMISED to PERSONALLY fight for be gutted, NOTHING now prevents a future administration from bringing back the ban, AND, in the interim while gays will ultimately be allowed to serve openly they will be officially denied the same nondiscrimination protections guaranteed black, female, and, yes, even Wiccan service members.

And if, as expected, the ODOJ goes into court again Friday to defend the constitutionality of DADT, I look forward to your explanation of the contradiction, both intellectually and behaviorally.

You are right about one thing: Obama is a politician, the type who gives politicians a bad name for their willingness to say one thing and do another, and twist themselves into a pretzel in order to stay in power. Of course, the term triangulation comes to mind and one thing Obama is competing with Clinton on is triangulation. Can't imagine you missed his saying his repeatedly saying he’s for "FULL LGBT equality" ...except for that marriage thingy....STILL.

AND they are going to continue ENFORCING it...even though, just like defending it, they don't HAVE to...and, YES, there are other laws Obama, Inc., refuses to enforce. AND they will "remain parties to the cases and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation"—whatever the hell that means. Has Lambda Legal dropped their lawsuit against him for refusing to OBEY the CIRCUIT judge's order that they allow Karen Golinski to add her married-in-CA partner to her government employee insurance at NO cost to the government AND—per the judge—NOT in violation of DOMA?

He also said he would “never compromise on LGBT rights”...until he did, again and again and again. All the time he kept saying that gay discharges were not just an injustice but also “weakens our national security” he was discharging gays. The Borg insisted that his using his unequivocal legal authority to freeze discharges in the name of that very national security was a no-no because it wouldn’t be a “permanent solution.” See NON-permanent “repeal” above.

But, you might protest, he DID finally come around. To which Father Tony might say, as he previously did on Bilerico: “Passing the repeal of DADT in the final moments of the year spoke volumes about [Obama's] dread of the repercussive voice of our community more than about his actual intentions."

Oh, my, I just remembered the White House Easter Egg Roll. I must confess I don’t recall any gays attending that under Clinton. Ooops, hold the phone....it was BUSH fils who first let The Gays in not Obama. Then HE must be "pro gay," too?

Your apparently being sucked in by the same new Obama Borg meme that they tried to apply to repeal, that everything he did wrong was part of a longterm secret plan to do right, doesn't make it true. As Alex might say, Obama didn't run on a promise to "play 57-dimensional chess." Or to star in Kabuki theatre, acting out Everyman's evolution on LGBT equality, "leadership" by not leading. This is what he DID promise:

"Americans are yearning for leadership that can empower us to reach for what we know is possible. I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country. To do that, we need leadership that can appeal to the best parts of the human spirit. Join with me, and I will provide that leadership."

I actually can believe any ADULT could ooze:

"Then, when the timing is perfect, Obama will reveal his great awakening. Maybe it will be presented with a same gender wedding at the White House." Right! With Sasha and Malia as flower girls, and Michelle singing "Oh, Promise Me"....in a duet with Donnie McClurkin.

Seriously, and, again, with respect, Joe, you sound like the stereotypical teenage girl swooning over the unrequited boy she's in love with, and finds constant explanations for his bad behavior, including contradictions of himself.

"For those loyal Obama supporters who spent two years defending the administration's DOMA position on this ground: if they have even a minimal amount of intellectual honestly, shouldn't they now criticize the President's reversal, this new refusal to defend DOMA? If they really believed what they were saying for the last two years -- that a President is required to defend the constitutionality of all statutes -- then shouldn't they be vocally condemning Obama now for doing exactly that which they insisted he has no power to do? Of course -- as the torture photo and civilian trial controversies also demonstrated -- one of the joys of partisan fealty and devotion to a leader is that one need not have any actual beliefs or positions: you get to say whatever you need to say at any given moment to justify the leader's conduct, even if it completely contradicts what you said months or weeks earlier in service of the same objective. Justifying the leader's behavior is the sole prism through which the entire political world is viewed; one is blissfully liberated from the need to formulate any actual views or principles." - Glenn Greenwald.

Whether you were one of those who defended his defending DOMA, Greenwald's overriding point still applies, and you, again, reveal yourself to have more fealty to your fantasies of what Obama is than to your own people. And that, my brother, is just sad.

I have not been afraid to be critical of President Obama in the past. This is what I wrote in 2009 when the DOJ defended DOMA. http://jointheimpact.com/2009/06/obama-defends-doma-we-defend-our-families/

Now I believe the President is going to do the right thing, but we don't get a pass. The grassroots must be ruthless. We have to push harder that we have ever pushed to move our community closer to equality. I believe if we do, then we have a President who is on our side.

Thank you for the great comments everyone.

But being ruthless is exactly what you are refusing to do. You aren't pushing; you aren't holding the President to account for his actions. You're giving him full credit not for anything he's actually done, but for what you imagine his intentions to be. You aren't just excusing him for refusing to fight for equality; you're praising him for it. Basically, you're saying that when we reach the point of no longer needing him at all, he'll be there for us -- and we should admire him for that. No thanks.

With all due respect, can you please stop referring to anyone who disagrees with you as an Obamabot or drinking kool aid. Its rather offensive and does nothing to actually create a dialogue.

Michael@LeonardMatlovich.com | February 25, 2011 2:10 PM

I reserve my right, as the expression goes, to call them as I see them. But, if you can prove to me that "Obambots" don't exist, and that no one in the world, based on prior suspension of disbelief, eagerly deep throats propaganda [from whatever source, politicians, advertising, etc.] rather than engaging in "critical thinking," thus making the analogy with those in Jonestown who willing killed themselves by drinking his poisoned Kool- Aid [albeit actually Flavor Aid, and versus those forced to], then I'll consider your request.

BUT, I find it ironic coming from someone choosing the nom de Net, "capitalistpiggy." I can think of several humanist capitalists who might find that "rather offensive."

This is the most pathetic piece of rationalization I've seen in a long time. I can't even imagine how someone can achieve this level of denial, or what kind of self-loathing someone would have to be plagued with, to so lionize a politician who has consistently and unwaveringly opposed full equality for LGBTs. No fundamentalist Christian ever strove so hard to believe the unbelievable.

Like anybody who follows politics and LGBT rights, I'm familiar with the narrative that Obama is lying about his actual level of support for LGBTs, and can be excused for it because lying is politically necessary. That's contemptible enough. But the narrative you've crafted -- that his lying is "theater," that his opposition to equality is a "subtle" "strategy of leadership" -- is just pathetic.

What other great civil rights leaders do you admire, Joe? George Wallace? Strom Thurmond? After all, they practiced the same subtle strategy of leadership you so admire in Obama.

For God's sake, get help. You sound like a member of a religious cult.

Then, when the timing is perfect, Obama will reveal his great awakening. And the mothership will appear and lions will lie down with sheep and everyone will get Oreo's.

Come on Joe. Give us a break.

It's a ploy, a scheme, a tactic. Obama does not want to take on DOMA and lose the bigot vote he worked so hard to win in 2008. So he's going to let the courts do it and if, very big if they vote our way then he'll take credit for it. It's possible, even likely that some naive people will fall for that but I'd be willing to bet that it won't include many of the 20 million or so who deserted the Democrats in 2010.

Meanwhile he's deftly maneuvering the Republicans into supporting Bill Clintons DOMA to take the heat off. Slick Willie has a rival in Obama.

"He is not a homophobic person. is a classic reiteration of political projection.

Obama is a homophobe, a bigot, when he opposes same sex marriage, which he does. In the same way that he's a loathsome warmonger when he escalates the murder of civilians and GIs in Afghanistan that he's a scab and a union buster for breaking the UAW's contract.

Sentiments expressed by politicians should be seen for what they are, baby kissing. He may or may not hate us but he acts like a bigot politically and that's all that's important.

I see this political calculus at work: Obama tosses the marriage issue to Republicans. They start blathering about that, wasting more congressional time. That diverts attention from issues like jobs, foreclosures, bungled healthcare, Afghanistan and reinforces the "Party of No" mantra. The Supreme Court will have the last word, anyway,(Obama hasn't supported repeal of DOMA, just said he has more doubts about it). In the meantime, he collects gay votes and donations and weakens the chances he'll have a strong challenger in the primaries.

Exactly. Obama (or his advisors) is getting tired of playing Bambi to the Republicans Godzilla.

Now he's the one playing tricks. Not getting a spine or actually being principled but learing the game.

No one benefits. It's a sick old game.

Hey - at least he's "evolving." I don't see any republican candidate even going that far!

Evolving or acting?

I believe you Joe but I'm mostly whatever about