Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Obama supports gay marriage

As you're probably aware, President Obama announced today his support for allowing same-sex couples to marry.  It's a move that might change the race in several ways:

-Finally there is something approximating a real basis for calling Obama a "radical".  Before, all they had was that he followed a health care plan created by the Heritage Foundation and the 1990's Republican Party, that he continued and intensified many of Bush's anti-terror programs, that he advocated returning to a top tax rate which didn't dampen economic growth during the Clinton years, and that he pursued economic policies which were not at all controversial just a few years ago.  But it's tough to call someone a radical for advocating a position which growing pluralities/majorities of Americans support.

-Proposition 8, which in California re-instated a ban on gay marriage, was overwhelmingly supported by African-Americans, a core Obama constituency.  I don't, however, think there will be very many African-Americans who would vote to designate the first African-American President a failure, which a loss for Obama would do.

-It very well may hurt him amongst the more conservative Democrats and independents.  As shown by the recent vote in North Carolina, gay marriage is not popular in several swing states.

-Just about anything that distracts from discussions of the economy is good for Obama.

-Most importantly, opposition to gay marriage is not a position which stands up to scrutiny, as discussed yesterday.  By elevating the issue as he did today, Obama will force a more detailed discussion of the matter.  What could Romney possibly say in such a discussion?  That it says gay sex is bad in Leviticus?  By provoking a real discussion of the issue, Obama will expose that there is nothing approximating a rational basis for the conservative position.  Given Romney's tenuous standing with evangelicals, it's a fight that he can't avoid.  If he fails to attack Obama for his position, he'll endanger his standing with his own base.

So while the numbers might currently suggest that Obama's "evolution" on the issue might hurt him in swing states, the current numbers don't matter.  6 months of discussion in which one side is utterly without merit will likely change those numbers.


NWest said...

It's too early for this to significantly affect the election though - Obama was saving this for September. Now the story will be dead by mid-June/July. Probably a net gain for team Romney since it happened sooner rather than later.

NWest said...

Also - I support gay marriage, by getting the government out of the business of issuing licenses for what is essentially a private social contract.

However, I do think that there are some arguments from a rational basis against it. These arguments (statist in nature) typically go something like:

The state defining marriage as between a man and a woman allows the state to encourage biological reproduction in an environment that historically has led to positive outcomes for children. It is unknown if the outcomes would be as positive without both genders serving as role models for a child, and the precautionary principle should be applied. It also allows the state to define "households" for purposes of taxation, census enumeration, and reproductive policy (as in China). If people are allowed to enter into any form of social relationship they wish, they may choose relationships that are more difficult for the state to define than just two people "married".

I think it's important to not just dismiss people who are against gay marriage as having arguments "without merit", but instead refute those arguments with fact and logic...

PoliticalDoctor said...

This is really the crux of the issue. If there were any legitimate basis to suggest that gay parents were worse parents, that would be one thing, but the research on the issue is clear that it is not "unknown" if role models of both genders are needed.

NWest said...

I agree with you completely, but I really don't think dismissing people by arguing that there's a "consensus" is a good way to go.

The data is incredibly recent (most studies with adequate sample sizes appear to be < 10 years old) and I can easily find studies which purport to show things such as "slightly more than half of the lesbians reported that they had been abused by a female lover/partner", which can easily be used as arguments against allowing such relationships.

Besides, with the use of the precautionary principle, any activities that present an uncertain potential for significant harm (which is defined nebulously, of course) should be prohibited, unless the proponent of the activity shows that it presents no appreciable risk of harm.

I don't agree with this approach, but it's a argument that is considered valid in many other cases (see the left's love of environmental laws), so why can't it be considered a valid case here?

I do think this is a place where federalism shows how well it works. By having some states allowing gays to marry, while others ban it, we have many different "laboratories" in which we can then empirically see the outcomes.

We were actually considering moving to Charlotte in the next few years but after they passed this law, we're probably not. As people vote with their feet and those places are seen as backward by a greater number of people, change will happen, but it will take time.

NWest said...

Also, see the 2003 Massachusetts case, Goodridge v. Department_of_Public_Health.

In particular, Justice Sosman's dissent is a case of these arguments:

"Placed in a more neutral
context, the court would never find any irrationality in such an approach. For example, if the issue were
government subsidies and tax benefits promoting use of an established technology for energy efficient
heating, the court would find no equal protection or due process violation in the Legislature's decision not
to grant the same benefits to an inventor or manufacturer of some new, alternative technology who did not
yet have sufficient data to prove that that new technology was just as good as the established technology.
That the early results from preliminary testing of the new technology might look very promising, or that the
theoretical underpinnings of the new technology might appear flawless, would not make it irrational for the
Legislature to grant subsidies and tax breaks to the established technology and deny them to the still
unproved newcomer in the field."