Barack Obama's same sex d-evolution

June 30, 2011

Barack Obama is now the last living Democrat whom anyone ever believed was progressive who’s not on board for same sex marriage.

Except, of course, that he used to be.

Back when he lived here in Chicago and went to dinner with his gay pals and celebrated their anniversaries and such.

Back around 1996, when he told Outlines (which later purchased and merged with Windy City Times): “I favor legalizing same sex marriage, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”

Nothing ambiguous there.

But just days ago, in response to New York’s legalization of same sex marriage, all the president could muster was that it was “a good thing” it had happened. Then he talked about marriage as a state issue as if he’d never gone to law school, as if he himself wasn’t the product of a marriage whose validity could have been called into question until a federal court decision six years after the fact made it moot.

At a LGBT fundraiser in the Big Apple just days after New York’s legalization, the president found himself hemming and hawing, embarrassing himself with verbal acrobatics to explain how much he’s for us except for this one tiny little thing which, if he okayed, might wreck his ascension.

No, not into heaven. Into a second-term.

Except that, does he really think there’s a soul in America whose vote is hanging on this one issue? A single voter who thinks it’s okay Obama passed national hates crime legislation, de-toothed the Defense of Marriage Act and lifted Don’t Ask Don’t Tell but will just have to walk away if Obama gives in and supports same sex marriage again?

The president says his position is “evolving,” that he sees “where the trends are going” – which I take as a wink-wink to hang in here cuz he’s gonna have a second-term epiphany.

In fact, the president's been de-volving: After giving his 1996 qujestionnaire answer, he switched up two years later to “undecided.” In 2004, running for U.S. Senate, he came out for civil unions for practical purposes, and by the time he was running for president, it had become a religious issue for him. Now he’s talking state’s rights – a cynical, ironic turn by our first African-American president.

“Obama is trying to have it both ways: garnering LGBT support by talking about equal rights, but not using the word marriage in a federal context so that he isn't quoted exactly supporting that concept,” says Tracy Baim, publisher and executive editor of WCT and author of Obama and the Gays. “But by equivocating on this issue, and calling it a ‘state’ issue when it is clearly also a federal issue, he is serving no one, and alienating some of his core base. They may not vote against him in 2012, but they also may not show up to vote for him. There needs to be a better message out there, because it is getting muddier and muddier, and many people are now just tuning him out.”

I'm with queer activist Dan Savage on this one. The legend on the button he wore to a White House LGBT gathering? "Evolve already."