The Washington Post

The Democrats’ marriage equality conundrum

First, the good news. Via Joe Sudbay, President Obama has come out against a ballot measure in North Carolina that would make marriage between a man and a woman the only domestic union recognized by the state:

“While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples,” said Cameron French, his North Carolina campaign spokesman.

“That’s what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do — it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples — and that’s why the President does not support it.”

And that’s a very positive step. But this also serves to highlight the Democratic Party’s conundrum on marriage equality.

As I noted here yesterday, gay rights advocates want the Democratic National Committee to place a clear and uequivocal statement of suppport for marriage equality into the party’s platform at the convention. But DNC officials are privately pleading for patience on the issue, because they worry the wrong language could alienate culturally conservative Democrats and could put the President in an awkward spot, because he’s still “evolving” on the issue.

But this is going come to a head no matter what. If Dems do put satisfactory language into the platform, it will increase pressure on Obama to complete his evolution on the issue already. If they don’t, a key Dem constituency could feel angry and betrayed in the weeks before election day.

Today’s North Carolina announcement sheds light on still another aspect of this dynamic.

In an odd twist, each time Obama takes another positive step towards full equality for gay and lesbian Americans, it has the effect of further persuading gay advocates that Obama does support marriage equality — and stokes their impatience to see him come out and say so already.

Today’s news could have the same effect. As Jed Lewison points out, it serves as another reminder that Obama recognizes that he needs to keep the troops on his side energized, and suggests he knows Dems can’t avoid the inevitable, meaning they’ll have to put marriage equality into the platform.

I don’t know whether they ultimately will or not, but many interested people will read this into today’s news. Even if what Obama did today was another positive move in the right direction, it will only intensify pressure on him to take the final step.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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