Same-sex marriage is turning into a character issue for President Obama.
Does he support it, or doesn’t he? The “evolution” answer doesn’t cut it any more. Neither does the not-gonna-make news for you cop-out. “I’m still working on it,” Obama told ABC News in October.
Time’s up. At this point, Obama’s reticence is looking — well, it’s looking cowardly.
Of course the president has taken huge — indeed, brave — steps in support of gay rights. He ended “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which the last Democratic president implemented. He instructed his Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which the last Democratic president signed.
So much credit is due. And in comparison to Mitt Romney on gay rights, there is no comparison. Romney supports a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage. Obama is tiptoeing his way toward support of marriage equality.
But the tiptoeing is becoming the problem — a bigger problem, in fact, than would be created by Obama’s coming right out and expressing support for same-sex marriage now, even if there is an election not many months away.
At this point, Obama’s understandable reticence has become — evolved into? — embarrassing dodging. He looks as if he’s hiding the ball from voters until after the election. He seems weak when he keeps on fudging as Democratic official after official, from governors to his own Cabinet secretaries, expresses clear support for marriage equality.
Whether Vice President Biden’s comments on “Meet the Press” amounted to a full endorsement of same-sex marriage or fell some smidgen short of that, the remarks served to revive the debate.
The subject dominated Monday’s White House briefing, with press secretary Jay Carney reduced to repeating statements like, “I don’t have an update to provide you on the president’s position. It is what it was.”
The question isn’t going away. Next stop: debate over whether to include a plank in support of same-sex marriage in the Democratic Party’s platform. What will Obama say then? Still thinkin’ on it?
The longer Obama dawdles, the worse he looks.