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Opinion

Opinion

Gay marriage stand hems in Obama

May 19, 2012

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— There are two ways to defend gay marriage. Argument A is empathy: One is influenced by gay friends in committed relationships yearning for the fulfillment and acceptance that marriage conveys upon heterosexuals. That’s essentially the case President Obama made when he first announced his change of views.

No talk about rights, just human fellow feeling. Such an argument is attractive because it can be compelling without being compulsory. Many people, feeling the weight of this longing among their gay friends, are willing to redefine marriage for the sake of simple human sympathy.

At the same time, however, one can sympathize with others who feel great trepidation at the radical transformation of the most fundamental of social institutions, one that, until yesterday, was heterosexual in all societies in all places at all times.

The empathy argument both encourages mutual respect in the debate and lends itself to a political program of gradualism. State by state, let community norms and moral sensibilities prevail. Indeed, that is Obama’s stated position.  

Such pluralism allows for the kind of “stable settlement of the issue” that Ruth Bader Ginsburg once lamented had been “halted” by Roe v. Wade regarding abortion, an issue as morally charged and politically unbridgeable as gay marriage.

Argument B is more uncompromising: You have the right to marry anyone, regardless of gender. The right to “marriage equality” is today’s civil rights, voting rights and women’s rights — and just as inviolable.

Argument B has extremely powerful implications. First, if same-sex marriage is a right, then there is no possible justification for letting states decide for themselves. How can you countenance even one state outlawing a fundamental right? Indeed, half a century ago, states’ rights was the cry of those committed to continued segregation and discrimination.

Second, if marriage equality is a civil right, then denying it on the basis of (innately felt) sexual orientation is, like discrimination on the basis of skin color, simple bigotry. California’s Proposition 8 was overturned by a 9th Circuit panel on the grounds that the referendum, reaffirming marriage as between a man and woman, was nothing but an expression of bias — “serves no purpose ... other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians.”

Pretty strong stuff. Which is why it was so surprising that Obama, after first advancing Argument A, went on five days later to adopt Argument B, calling gay marriage a great example of “expand(ing) rights” and today’s successor to civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights and workers’ rights.

Problem is: It’s a howling contradiction to leave up to the states an issue Obama now says is a right. And beyond being intellectually untenable, Obama’s embrace of the more hard-line “rights” argument compels him logically to see believers in traditional marriage as purveyors of bigotry. Not a good place for a president to be in an evenly divided national debate that requires both sides to offer each other a modicum of respect.

No wonder that Obama has been trying to get away from the issue as quickly as possible. It’s not just the New York Times poll showing his new position to be a net loser. It’s that he is too intelligent not to realize he’s embraced a logical contradiction.

Moreover, there is the problem of the obvious cynicism of his conversion. Two-thirds of Americans see his “evolution” as a matter not of principle but of politics. In fact, the change is not at all an evolution — a teleological term cleverly chosen to suggest movement toward a higher state of being — given that Obama came out for gay marriage 16 years ago. And then flip-flopped.

He was pro when running for the Illinois Legislature from ultra-liberal Hyde Park. He became anti when running eight years later for U.S. senator and had to appeal to a decidedly more conservative statewide constituency. And now he’s pro again.

When a Republican engages in such finger-to-the-wind political calculation (on abortion, for example), he’s condemned as a flip-flopper. When a liberal goes through a similar gyration, he’s said to have “evolved” into some more highly realized creature, deserving of a halo on the cover of a national newsmagazine.

Notwithstanding a comically fawning press, Obama knows he has boxed himself in. His “rights” argument compels him to nationalize same-sex marriage and sharpen hostility to proponents of traditional marriage — a place he is loath to go.

True, he was rushed into it by his loquacious vice president. But surely he could have thought this through.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

jonas_opines 1 year, 11 months ago

Hmmm. . . . looks like another thread with a lot of space devoted to bashing people for bashing bashers.

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FloridaSunshine 1 year, 11 months ago

Negotiated BetterWolf?? Oh, your hilarity never ends...thanks for the laugh before I pull the blankies over my head!

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FloridaSunshine 1 year, 11 months ago

Had he written a comment? Please PM me if you must...this is too bizarre. Exactly what did you see??

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tange 1 year, 11 months ago

WHOA! GoodWolf was back! Just a moment ago! Right before my eyes! Then poof, gone again! Whaaaaaat's goinnnnn' onnnnn?

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Windemere 1 year, 11 months ago

Didn't read each comment above (165 is a big number), but wondering if anyone has made the case that the govt shouldn't even be in the business of defining marriage. How about government only recognizes civil unions between 2 consenting adults (be they gay, straight, black, white, whatever). 'Marriage" would continue to exist as a cultural/religious concept. Most people would still get married (e.g. at a church), but people would also have their relationship designated by the govt as a civil union (which has a bearing on benefits, inheritance, etc.). This makes govt neutral, as it should be.

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FloridaSunshine 1 year, 11 months ago

So true, bozo. I was just checking my comment history and all comments to GoodWolf are gone...as if never sent...no faded out remarks of deletion, you know, as when disappearded...simply GONE. But there were some other comments between that were not including GoodWolf which are gone, also...and they were perfectly innocent and fine comments. I don't get that...

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FloridaSunshine 1 year, 11 months ago

Hey, has anyone else noticed that big chunks of blog have been completely removed from this thread?? Not disappeardededed, but REMOVED with NO TRACE!! Wow!!! There's no evidence that those comments were ever here. When something is disappearded, you can see the faint print remarking that the comment has been deleted, but not so in this case. Just take a look through this whole thread and you'll realize...a lot of the comments were by GoodWolf...some were made by moi...and a couple of other bloggers.

What's going on?? I called LJW and was told it would be checked on....so, we'll see if the comments show up again. V-E-R-Y, V-E-R-Y INTERESTING, INDEED....hmmmm....

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tange 1 year, 11 months ago

OMG.

"What hath God wrought?" — Samuel F. B. Morse, May 24, 1844

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 11 months ago

What you just don't get is that in America, might does not make right.

We are a country based on a Constitution, not a religion. As such, you will be required as a religious person to justify your social positions without referring to your religious dogma.

It does indeed suck to see the America I love to be so wrongly directed by religious dogma. And you are correct. I would not be tolerated in a theocracy.

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BornAgainAmerican 1 year, 11 months ago

With 77% (according to Wiki) identifying as Christians in the United States, it would apppear that it "sucks" (YWN's word) to be atheist or homosexual. It must also suck to be confined to the United States since "Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan" along with most of the other nations of the world would not be as tolerant of your extremist views. Further, the Constitution was founded on Judeo Christian values and morals. The Secular Progressives have been hacking up the original document since the turn of the 19th century. All of the religious symbolism so prominently displayed in the architecture of buildings in our nation's capital must be a sore spot for the Secular types on this web site.

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 11 months ago

In a constitutional secular republic like the USA, it is the burden of the religious to mount arguments about social issues that do not rely on religious dogma.

As an atheist and an American, I simply do not accept rationales based on religious dogma, nor do our constitutional or legal systems. Nor should any of us as free Americans.

Sucks for you, but "It's a sin" cuts no ice in a constitutional democracy.

The world has plenty of theocracies you might like better, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

The trouble for you is finding a theocracy that is based on your theology. Good luck with that.

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 11 months ago

The only argument mounted against same sex marriage in response to my query has been "It's a sin".

'Nuff said.

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Ray Parker 1 year, 11 months ago

The polygamists, pedophiles, and zoophiles, are waiting their turn to demand an end to discrimination and to demand restoration of their marriage rights. There is no safety rail around the abyss at the bottom of the slippery slope, folks.

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thuja 1 year, 11 months ago

Look at what happens when you put "Obama" in a headline.

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chalice2 1 year, 11 months ago

If marriage is a civil right? It is a civil right and established law. See Loving v. Virginia.

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

Two men or two women will never have, and I repeat 'never' have, what I and Rolanda Sue have. You will 'never' have what Barack and Michelle have....and you will never have, put in your favorite male and female names, have.

You folk that can't have what I and Rolanda Sue have. Tough. My heart goes out for you all's 'dilemma'.

What males and females have is 'unique' to males and females.

Sometimes you can't have your way. So quit trying to "act" like you are males and females. It's not becoming.

(cue the tissues)

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GoodWolf 1 year, 11 months ago

"....trepidation at the radical transformation of the most fundamental of social institutions..."


Please explain in detail how someone's gay marriage is going to "radically transform" someone else's hetero- marriage.

Why is it that no one opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage ever attempts to offer any credible evidence for their claims?

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 11 months ago

Other fallacious assertions against same sex marriage:

1) If two guys can marry, why not three guys, two girls and a guy, a guy and a goat, ad nauseum. -Last I checked, bigamy and bestiality were illegal for heterosexuals. There is no reason they wouldn't be for homosexuals.

2) It goes against natural law. -"You cannot go against nature, because if you do go against nature, that's part of nature too" (Love and Rockets). The natural world is as it exists, and that includes homosexual human beings (and other animals as well).

3) Same sex couples cannot procreate. -If this is the sole reason for marriage, then only those who can produce children can be married (sorry to those who are sterile or old, but still heterosexual).

Anyone have any better arguments against same sex marriage?

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

"To Do Is To Be" -Nietzsche

"To Be Is To Do" -Kant

"Do Be Do Be Do" -Sinatra

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 11 months ago

I wish someone would mount an argument against same sex marriage that didn't involve the fallacious statements that: 1) heterosexual marriage has been the bedrock of all civilizations for thousands of years; and 2) same sex marriage diminishes heterosexual marriage.

Any takers? Why is same sex marriage wrong?

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rockchalk1977 1 year, 11 months ago

The constitutional scholar Obama has been on the wrong side of healthcare and immigration. He is wrong on gay marriage as well. None of these are "protected rights". A trifecta of constitutional incompetence! Romney 2012!

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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weiser 1 year, 11 months ago

Obama sucks! Anything to take our eyes and ears off the fact that he hasn't follwed through with any of his promises are coming our way! I almost voted for him too, no kidding.

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gudpoynt 1 year, 11 months ago

"Obama’s embrace of the more hard-line “rights” argument compels him logically to see believers in traditional marriage as purveyors of bigotry."

No it doesn't. Go back to logic school Krauthammer.

You can be a believer in traditional marriage without being a bigot.

It's when start pushing your belief onto others who have a broader view of marriage, in an attempt to exclude them from the same privileges and social recognition that you enjoy, that you exhibit bigotry.

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Sam_Yosemite 1 year, 11 months ago

If a politician with an "R" behind their name did what Obama did regarding same sex marriage, they're labeled a flip-flopper, but Obama has been praised at his arrival of this announcement as being the result of a long and intellectually complex process of evolving. This is no more surprising than it is plausible. Years of changing for Obama has been easier than a chameleon changing colors.

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jaywalker 1 year, 11 months ago

A reasonable column by Charles for a Change.

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GoodWolf 1 year, 11 months ago

"....trepidation at the radical transformation of the most fundamental of social institutions..."


Please explain in detail how someone's gay marriage is going to "radically transform" someone else's hetero- marriage.

What, you cannot? This is just fear-mongering informed by your irrational prejudice? OK, I get it now.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 11 months ago

What bothers Chuck is that Obama has rather successfully charted a middle course on a very tricky issue, and Chuck is struggling mightily to figure out how Republicans can use it as a weapon against him, but as his latest POS column shows, it ain't working.

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GoodWolf 1 year, 11 months ago

It's easy to "believe in traditional marriage" -- when you happen to have a heterosexual orientation. There's nothing like narcissistic solipsism to solidify one's understanding of human sexuality and relationships!

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GoodWolf 1 year, 11 months ago

Marriage has been "heterosexual in all societies in all places at all times"? No, Charlie, that claim is simply not true for "all societies in all places at all times". I do understand why you desperately want it to be true, however.

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GoodWolf 1 year, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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tange 1 year, 11 months ago

As one who generally loathes the weekly pounding of brine cabbage, I must say, Charlie nails some points, here. So much ado about matters murky.

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grammaddy 1 year, 11 months ago

Giving someone else"Equal Rights" does not diminish yours.

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Sam_Yosemite 1 year, 11 months ago

Didn't Obama tell McCain in the fall of '08 that he was trying to create too many distractions from the real issues?

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Orwell 1 year, 11 months ago

The usual Krauthammer propaganda.

The difference between Obama's change of position and Romney's laundry list of flip-flops is that Obama can, and does, explain. Romney just lies and denies he's changed positions, or refuses to talk about his reversals at all.

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

It was a 'good' article until this 'fallacious' point.

"It’s that he is too intelligent not to realize he’s embraced a logical contradiction."

It should have read....'He is too 'conceited' to realize he's embraced a logical contradiction."

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