For reasons of raw politics, Democratic presidential nominees can't say they support gay marriage, though they obviously do. So they send their wives out to say it for them.
In 2004, as John Kerry went through the motions of trying to head-fake Americans on gay marriage, his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, was telling an audience in San Francisco that "we'll get there." Gay marriage, she assured the crowd, would and should happen "with time and without a lot of politicization of this." She was sure the country would "evolve....I think our country is basically a tolerant country."
Similarly, Barack Obama is faking up some tortured, difficult-to-follow position in nominal opposition to gay marriage while dispatching his wife to signal the opposite before a crowd of the "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community" in New York City.
"Barack is not new to the cause of the LGBT community," she said to the Democratic National Committee's Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council last week. She said her husband supports "full equality" for them, which is why he endorses -- here she tried out a new euphemism -- "robust civil unions." Not just civil unions, but robust civil unions.
Since liberalism defines equality as sameness and brooks no distinctions, "full equality" means Obama's support for "robust civil unions" will become, once the political coast is clear, support for national gay marriage.
Michelle Obama noted that he already supports "civil marriage" for homosexuals if states approve it and that he doesn't want the "federal government" to stand in the way. She didn't spell out that he also doesn't think the people in a state should stand in the way. According to his latest position, the people should not be allowed to pass an amendment at the state level blocking gay marriage.
Charting the permutations in his position is boring and pointless. The bottom line is he will support gay marriage; he just can't say so yet. The subtext of Michelle Obama's message to the "LGBT" community was the same as Teresa Heinz's in 2004: hang in there, just let the political charade play out, and "we'll get there."
USING HIS PASSIVE, forked-tongue style, in which run-of-the-mill political cowardice masquerades as pained honesty, Obama writes in The Audacity of Hope that restricting his support to gay civil unions might appear unenlightened in time: "in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of history."
Perhaps an even better example of wimpy signaling is this passage: "I was reminded that it is my obligation not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society, but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided."
He seems very eager to be wrong. Perhaps he will acknowledge his hanging back on gay marriage as a serious failing in a future debate, next to his insufficient enthusiasm for Terri Schiavo's dehydration and his untidy desk, failings disclosed in previous debates with Hillary Clinton.
As Obama left his wife to finesse the gay-marriage issue last week, he prepared for an easier one this week: government-subsidized "faith-based" charities, which he is all for of course, as long as their work is not based on faith.
While "reaching" out to the religious, he made sure to let secularists in the party know they are still in charge. "I'm not saying that faith-based groups are an alternative to government or secular non-profits, and I'm not saying that they're somehow better at lifting people up," the Washington Post reported him saying in Ohio.
Faith-based groups, under an Obama administration, would have to sing for their supper, according to the Post: "an Obama administration would get tough on groups that discriminate in hiring practices and doling out assistance. The groups would have to abide by federal hiring laws that reject discrimination based on race, sex and religion. Obama said he supports federal legislation that would extend those protections to gay people as well, a flash point with some religious organizations that say hiring or assisting gays would run counter to their beliefs."
The Obamas are busy working both sides of the street, with Barack taking "values week" and his wife speaking to LGBT galas.
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