By VISHAL BAILOOR, political columnist
People across the United States were, depending on their views, either elated or horrified when President Barack Obama announced his complete support for gay marriage just a few months before his showdown with Republican Mitt Romney. His decision has attracted many critics, from “pure” marriage activists to Democratic political leaders who want to see him re-elected come November. The Republican Establishment has been increasingly vocal after experiencing drastic shakeups in the healthcare industry and the economy. This close to the election, controversial decisions should be few and far between, especially when they pertain to such a hot-button topic with a history that traces back for more than a decade. Yet, here the American people are asked to make a very tricky judgment of value: do the morals of the issue outweigh the political ramifications? What are the moral issues and consequences? Most importantly, was Obama’s decision the right choice to make?
The answer: a resounding “yes.” It is exactly the right time to embrace gay marriage as an issue and move forward, both for Obama’s re-election prospects and for the moral strength of America. Obama, a conscientious moderate, appeals not only to the Democratic party base, but more importantly to the hordes of unaffiliated, disillusioned, and otherwise middle-of-the-line voters who far outnumber the political extremists. Many Americans see the nation moving dangerously close to falling under control by backwards-looking evangelists who are far behind on social issues and short on common sense. By taking a bold step forward on a key social issue, Obama has assumed the mantle of the progressive reformer while neatly sidestepping more thorny issues such as Guantanamo and Afghanistan. The main opponents of Obama’s renewed stance, Midwestern and Southern conservatives, are not groups that are likely to vote for Obama in the first place; policy differences pertaining to gun control and economic regulation have proven too contentious. Meanwhile, moderates and liberals largely agree with Obama’s choice, viewing it as a major step toward a better national policy. Most importantly, young people are more inclined to take an active stance on politics — and on Mr. Obama — as they see a leader who has taken a strong perspective on an issue that, to them (or should I say, to us), is obvious. LGBT activists and so-called “bleeding-heart” liberals are now firmly entrenched in Obama’s camp. In one extremely smooth move, Obama has gone from an incumbent embattled on both sides to a blazing leftist, supported by the young, the angry, and the activist. He has made his re-election all but assured.
Now, I’m personally not gay, but it doesn’t take being homosexual to realize that some issues should not be issues at all; gay marriage is a right that should have been accorded side by side with racial and gender equality. Sometimes it is worth taking a risk to stand up for something you believe in, especially when it is so symbolic to the American people and to the citizens of the world. That is exactly what Obama is doing. Too often, it seems that we cave in to extremists without a fight, that rights are something that can be compromised and, indeed, sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. But Obama is just taking the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” a flawed policy as it was, one step further — a relatively painless move that certainly captures the moral high ground. His decision is a natural extension of his past support for the LGBT community.
The America of today is not a particularly happy place. With the tanking of J.P. Morgan in a spiraling economy, the impending collapse of Obamacare, and the continuation of wars and conflicts overseas, there is no reason to allow yet another issue to cloud our focus, especially one that a majority of Americans take the same position on. According to a recent New York Times/CBS News Poll, 62% of Americans support the legal recognition of same-sex unions. Some people call it a slippery slope: once gay marriage is allowed, marriage itself will slowly become less and less defined until it becomes meaningless. Those who share these views are also the ones who once opposed interracial marriage, who once opposed civil rights, and who once opposed women having the same rights as men. It is time someone in politics took a stand; when it’s politically beneficial, it really is a win-win situation. With the power and force behind this decision, Obama can resuscitate America’s hope for change and put the United States back on track to be the nation that everyone wants and deserves.