Commentary Magazine


“Clear Distinction” Between Romney and Obama on Gay Marriage?

The White House is still mopping up after Joe Biden’s comments on gay marriage yesterday. At today’s press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney batted down questions about whether President Obama has changed his stance on gay marriage, saying he had “no update on the president’s personal views.”

Meanwhile, David Axelrod sought to change the subject by highlighting the “very clear distinction” between Romney and Obama on the issue:

Though Axelrod sounded reluctant to discuss the issue again Monday — after tweeting about it Sunday— he quickly contrasted the Obama administration’s position on gay rights with Romney’s record.

The former Massachusetts governor “has funded efforts to roll back marriage laws in California and other places,” Axelrod said, adding that Romney “believes that we need a constitutional amendment banning the right of gay couples to marry and would take us backward not forward. There’s a very clear distinction in this race.”

No argument there – Romney and Obama have taken different positions on gay marriage-related policy. And while the president hasn’t explicitly spelled out his support for gay marriage, the Obama team has made sure that even the slowest learners recognize his true position on the issue, which he can’t take publicly (yet) because of “politics.”

But the Romney-Obama comparison is also a distraction, and it’s one that’s seemed to have worked so far with Obama’s liberal supporters. The question at hand isn’t whether Obama has taken more laissez faire positions on gay marriage than Mitt Romney. It’s whether he’s finally going to dispense with the charade and publicly acknowledge his own personal opinion on it. So far, many liberals have given Obama a pass because his policies are supportive of gay rights and (for the most part) gay marriage. Because gay marriage is chiefly a state-by-state issue right now, does it really matter what the president thinks?

Yes – it matters because he’s using it as a dodge. If Obama had never mentioned the issue, then there would be far less interest in his personal views. But he said he believed that marriage is between a man and a woman multiple times during his 2008 campaign. He then claimed his position was “evolving” during a meeting with bloggers in October 2010. That was more than a year and a half ago. How long does it take for one to “evolve”?

It’s time for Obama to clarify his position, particularly because it could have an impact on the way some of his supporters vote. The media wouldn’t let Romney get away with such evasiveness on the issue, and it shouldn’t allow it from Obama.