In the wake of Obama's declaration of support for marriage equality yesterday, here are some links and observations.
Will this change people's votes?
A Slate blog entry suggests that few voters will decide not to vote for Obama based on this issue.
That entry links to (among other things) a Politico article that suggests that African-Americans are not significantly more opposed to marriage equality than the population as a whole. About the question of whether African-American voters are likely to abandon Obama over this, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher says: “I wouldn't say it's a nonissue, [but] on the list of things that keep me up at night worrying about Obama's reelection, it's really low on the list.”
In a Washington Post article that quotes a bunch of DC-area voters, a 66-year-old African-American guy says, “I'm sorry, I was tickled and proud to see a black president, but I can't vote for a man who goes against God. I don't believe in skin color more than I believe in God's word. This president must be part atheist or something.” Another African-American Democrat in Maryland says: “I'd love to be supportive to my president, [but] I have to be loyal to my God.” The article says that that voter “can’t see casting another ballot for Obama.” But that same article quotes several other voters who are sticking with Obama despite disagreeing with him on this issue.
Added a bit later: Some Latino perspectives, both pro and con.
LZ Granderson notes that “a CNN/ORC International poll taken in late March showed gay rights was tied for dead last in what voters felt was the most important issue.” The poll showed pretty consistent results from August 2011 through March 2012: 50%-60% said “the most important issue facing the country today” was the economy, 16%-20% said the federal budget deficit, and so on, down to 1%-2% naming “policies toward gays and lesbians.” Of course, the poll doesn't measure how many people feel that policies toward gays and lesbians is the second-most-important issue. Still, this does suggest that there may not be a lot of voters whose votes will change based on Obama's announcement.
Republicans supporting equality
NY state Senator James Alesi, one of the four courageous Republicans who helped bring about marriage equality in NY, has decided not to run for for reelection; “he believes his vote in favor of the landmark gay marriage legislation would have severely hampered his chances in a GOP primary this year” and that the local Republican and Conservative party leadership are supporting his opponent in the primary. Disappointing; I was hoping, perhaps naively, that that vote wouldn't end up hurting anyone's political career.
However, Republican gay-rights advocate Margaret Hoover (did y'all Mawrtyrs know she's a Bryn Mawr alum?) says that more and more Republicans are supporting marriage equality.
I was, of course, very disappointed in NC's 61%-39% decision to amend the state constitution to ban marriage equality (and civil unions, and anything else that might remotely suggest that same-sex couples are legitimate).
But I do think it's worth noting that the 61% figure is 61% of the people who voted, which was only 34% of registered voters; in other words, 20% of registered voters voted for the amendment. That 34% is on the high side for a NC primary, but is only about half the usual NC turnout for a full election.
An anonymous poll worker said that a bunch of people on both sides came to vote specifically on this issue; but given historical primary-voting stats, it's very unlikely that more than a few percent of voters showed up just to vote on the amendment. In other words, if my analysis is right (which it may not be), the core population in the NC vote was Republican-primary voters.
On a related note, reality TV star Clay Aiken, who's gay and from NC, said: “you have to remember that 30 states did that before we did it and California was one of them.” Touche.
Marriage in the military
Sadly, the US House Armed Services Committee voted to ban same-sex marriages or marriage-like ceremonies on military bases.
The abovelinked Fox News article on the subject had a mildly amusing juxtaposition of ads with article topic. The ad across the top of the page said “Will you pray for our nation in 2012?” The ad to the right of the headline showed a buffed white guy wearing nothing but swim trunks, with the caption “He's Got the Libido of a 20-Year-Old.” It looked like an ad for a gay resort, but no, it's for a “game-changing testosterone booster that will skyrocket performance in the gym and desire in the bedroom.” Below that, a link to a recommended video, headlined “Gay marriage gambit brings headaches for Obama.” I feel like there's some connection among those bits that I can't quite consciously grasp, kinda like the Harper's Index juxtaposition of stats that almost seem to reflect on each other.
The Guardian has an interesting chart of what kinds of gay rights are legally recognized in each US state. It's a little hard to figure out what the different indicators mean; try mousing over various states for details.
I should note that I personally am really glad to see Obama make his announcement. Of course it's later than I'd have liked (and I was thinking yesterday that if he'd done this six months ago it might have influenced the course of the Republican primary); of course I'm concerned that it might hurt him in the election; of course I suspect that there was political calculation involved; of course I understand that his support doesn't in itself result in any changes to any laws; of course I would have preferred that he make a constitutional argument rather than a states'-rights one. (Though I gotta say the states'-rights argument has served our side well in this debate in recent years, and you can be sure we'll be making it a lot if Romney gets elected.)
But regardless of any of that, he is the first sitting US President ever to publicly support marriage equality. That's hugely important. The difference may be more symbolic than practical, but it's a really important symbol.