Gay marriage is a hot button issue this 2012 election year ... or is it? An ABC News poll in March of 2011 showed a majority of Americans support gay marriage. But when asked in a political context, as they were after President Barack Obama's recent announcement in support of same-sex marriage, Americans appear to divide up along party lines -- as if they think their party expects a certain answer from them.
I'm in favor of marriage equality, which might not be the answer my party expects. For many reasons, but mostly because of my general aversion to bedroom politics. I'm also concerned about the inherent discrimination a ban on gay marriage represents.
While it was once the social conservatives in the Republican party who we could count on to turn a social issue into a wedge issue, it now seems to be President Barack Obama's campaign managers turning up the rhetoric, if for no other reason than to bait the Republicans in an election year. First it was birth control; now it is same sex unions. It really bothers me that our leaders are introducing these social issues into the equation and stirring people up who just a year ago did not consider gay marriage or birth control to be the critical issues in these elections. It has given us an unvarnished look at how wedge issues are deployed in tightly contested races.
I just got back from North Carolina where the Republican Speaker of the House told reporters the ban they just passed would eventually be overturned as attitudes on gay marriage open up in that state. They are changing but not soon enough for North Carolina. Remember late last year when the young Barbara Bush went on television to support same sex unions in the state of New York?
In Obama's case, I don't know that it helped him to come out in favor of gay marriage. I think his core constituency assumed he was already in favor of it and the timing and temerity of his announcement just irritated some in the gay community. As Chad Griffin, a major Democratic fundraiser who is set to take over in June as head of Human Rights Campaign (a leading organization lobbying for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights), said:
No one knows how [the political implications of Obama's announcement] will play out. I expect this issue to really die down, and we'll be back to the issues of jobs and the economy.
I just wonder what it must feel like to be a gay couple in these United States when our candidates are trying to unite us around the politics of hate. And to see your lifestyle and life at home used as political bait? We really do need to move beyond that. We need to fix our economy and our schools.