Barack Obama | DOMA | Gay Marriage | Richard Socarides

Socarides: Obama's Gay Marriage Views Will Evolve Before 2012 Election

In the New Yorker, former Clinton aide Richard Socarides writes on marriage equality and Obama's new political reality:

SocaridesDuring the Clinton years, gay marriage was a relatively new issue and most Americans did not yet understand it. No one could be “gay-married” anywhere. When the Republican-led Congress presented Clinton with the Defense of Marriage Act a few short months before the 1996 election, I and members of the White House staff struggled in vain to come up with ways the President could veto it and stay consistent with what was then his stated opposition to the granting of marriage rights. (Clinton has since changed his mind.)

But now, the remarkable new reality for Obama in this election is that supporting marriage equality is smart politics.

Predicting this new reality along with DOMA will force Obama's hand before the election:

Many of the lawyers who follow these cases closely—and as one who served as an adviser to President Clinton on gay rights, I include myself in that category—believe that the odds favor marriage advocates. If so, these twin rulings from influential courts will have a substantial impact. The Supreme Court would likely hear final appeals by 2013.

The potential for those decisions, together with a rapid change in public opinion in favor of marriage equality, have clearly become factors in President Obama’s thinking. As a result, I believe that he will announce his support for same-sex marriage before the 2012 election.

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  1. Sorry to say but I think Socarides has his head completely up his ass. The only calculus on Team Obama will be what the "right" stance is on marriage equality in the electoral swing states. And the answer will not be further "evolution" until after November 2012.

    Posted by: Glenn | Dec 20, 2011 10:38:25 AM

  2. I believe President Obama will do whatever he thinks is best for his POLITICAL career. It has become painfully obvious that ALL of his decisions are rooted in political reality. Supporting gay marriage is not only the right thing to do, it is the political thing to do.

    People who strongly oppose gay marriage aren't going to vote for him anyway. People who couldn't care one way or the other are not going to be moved one way or the other by his decision to support gay marriage; but people who want gay marriage will be reinvigorated and motivated to work for his reelection.

    The decision is his but support for gay marriage is now his best political option.

    Posted by: Ninong | Dec 20, 2011 10:39:59 AM

  3. I believe differently and almost said so yesterday with the reporting of the Obama congratulations on your marriage letter to the gay couple yesterday. He's going to have to change his views because the upcoming presidential election will be tight and without the support of the gay community (and the friends/family/etc) their vote could tip it his way. He needs that and I believe that has always been his strategy. Say no during the first term, say yes during the second term.

    I say he will support same-sex marriage.

    Posted by: OS2Guy | Dec 20, 2011 10:42:11 AM

  4. Who cares if he changes is mind BEFORE the election? Aside from giving the commenting queens on Towleroad something to talk about, it won't do anything, he doesn't have enough time left in the term. It could only stand to hurt him in the only elections that matter: Ohio and Florida. He winds up losing Ohio and Florida, Mitt Romney becomes president, and so long DOMA repeal, letters to gay couples, LGBT-linked foreign aid policy, gay pride announcements, everything. I hope you're happy then.

    On the other hand, he has clearly signaled that if he can secure an electoral college victory in 2012, then he will fully support marriage equality in 2013. This is something that we literally cannot have both ways, and it's time to understand that.

    Posted by: Mike C. | Dec 20, 2011 10:57:05 AM

  5. President Obama is fully aware of history, how history plays out, and how his Presidency will be remembered and written about. Seriously. He does. He's an incredibly bright man. I think discerning rational minds know damn well that America is still a hotbed for anti-gay prejudice - it's the reason the GOP talks nonstop about The Gays when they do their down-home-y lil townhall church chats. When your base is full of idiots who don't know what "fiscal" means and who think "foreign policy" means "what to do about brown people" you have to stoop to "i hate gays!" to win votes. The GOP does that. It garners them millions of votes.

    of COURSE President Obama is on our side. And those that can't understand "why" he's not fully endorsed marriage equality already are either delusional fools who don't understand sociopolitics, or resentful homosexuals who are either right-wing suckups or refuse to accept that a black man will indeed do for them what decades of white men wouldn't.


    i'm not saying i accept, or am happy, about this particular path. i am, however, saying that i understand it.

    Elect the man. Keep him in office. He's the strongest ally for our community that the US has ever seen in an American President. To disregard him is to reveal your own prejudices.


    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Dec 20, 2011 11:26:49 AM

  6. quack quack quack.
    appears to me that Obama has played his hand quite well so far and i've no doubt will continue to do so, (whatever that may be remains to be seen).

    Posted by: oliver | Dec 20, 2011 11:32:08 AM

  7. I agree with Mike C. While I think that the nomination of Gingrich, which unfortunately appears less likely by the day, would give the President some greater flexibility to make a move on this issue, what he needs and we need to be focused on now is winning this election and making sure that Republicans don't seize control of the entire federal government and along with that the opportunity to fill Supreme Court vacancies, etc. Aside from Florida and Ohio, states like Virginia are also going to decide next year's election. No need to make our path there more difficult when nothing can be accomplished on marriage equality at the federal level in 2012 anyway. Better to focus on trying to boost the level of support for DOMA repeal in Congress. We have 32 or 33 Senators supporting repeal now - all Democrats; not even a single one of the allegedly "moderate" Republicans supports repeal - and could add to those numbers by replacing Scott Brown with Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and by electing pro-equality Dems in places like Connecticut, Maine and Virginia.

    Posted by: Patric | Dec 20, 2011 11:35:10 AM

  8. I am so tired of people like Richard Socarides making excuses for Bill Clinton signing DOMA into law. He should have vetoed it and dared the House to overrule the veto. Then it would have been their law, not his. But like with most things he was too weak. What he did was shameful then and is shameful now.

    As for President Obama, the last thing he or we need is for marriage equality to be injected into the 2012 campaign any more than it already will be. As others above have commented, the best thing for us is that he is reelected. If the president is going to come out and support marriage equality, it will be after he is reelected, and that's fine with me. Doing something for his political career isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    So everyone should just stop talking about it and get focused on reelecting the president who overturned Don't Ask Don't Tell, killed Osama Bin Laden, and brought troops home from Iraq.

    Posted by: Robert | Dec 20, 2011 1:07:25 PM

  9. I don't agree that supporting marriage equality would be a political win for him right now. I think for every gay vote he picked up he would lose 2 or more black votes. There are actually socially conservative people who would vote for him, particularly within the African-American community and many of them feel strongly enough about "gay marriage" to, at the very least, withhold their vote from him over it.

    I think it's the right thing to do. I think he will do it eventually but I don't think it will happen before the 2012 election and I think that here in the real world it won't be a political win for a presidential candidate until the 2016 election. That's not the way I think it should be but I think it's the way it is.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Dec 20, 2011 1:44:54 PM

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