Saturday, December 25, 2010

Leveraging Rights

The President’s recent announcement that he is reconsidering his stance on marriage equality is encouraging, not only for its move toward extending equal rights to millions of Americans, but also for its potential to help derail the draconian Republican agenda that will torment poor and middle-class citizens starting in January.

Until recently, Mr. Obama’s position was that individual states should be encouraged to allow civil unions, but he was against gays and lesbians having the right to get married. But just like in the recent repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, he appears to be realizing that marriage equality is not a legislative issue, but a civil rights issue.

As we have previously written, it is clear to us that marriage equality is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. But just as it did take legislation and Constitutional amendments to institutionalize rights across racial boundaries, the same approach may be necessary to guarantee rights regardless of sexual preference.

Just like in the ongoing wars for racial equality and women's equality, there will be multiple battlefields in the quest for marriage equality.  Congress and the courts, including eventually the Supreme Court, are the front lines. So, like it or not, once again a civil rights issue is being played out on the political battlefield.

President Obama can use this to his advantage. Vice President Biden recently said that the nation’s attitude toward same-sex marriage is evolving, and the acceptance and legalization of marriage equality is inevitable. So as the legislative and judicial processes churn on, why not take advantage of this fact? The President should take a lesson from the Republican Tea Party’s playbook and make this into a wedge issue that works towards progressive goals. In his January State of the Union address, he should rally the nation around the next great civil rights struggle - equal rights for LGBT citizens - starting with marriage equality and the repeal of the oddly-named Defense of Marriage Act.

In addition to promoting what is right and decent, bringing marriage equality to the forefront will result in the Republican Tea Party frittering away time and money on a cause that they are inevitably going to lose. Sure, this issue will rally those on the right who oppose civil rights, but generally those people are motivated already. But making marriage equality a linchpin in Obama’s 2011 agenda will reinvigorate the netroots progressive crowd who put him in the White House and then slept through the mid terms. Spending more and more time on achieving these rights has the added impact of taking some of the wind out of the Republican Tea Party’s sails in their quest to kill Social Security, pollute the earth, tax cut the nation into fiscal bankruptcy, and return to the Bush/Rove quest to deregulate us into disaster.

In the fight to repeal DADT, one of the things that helped change the country’s (and the military brass’) attitude was the fact that the media paid attention and put individual warriors with real stories on the front page and in prime time. Looking at the impact on real people is more effective than promoting the cause in abstract terms.

Next month, the President has a choice. He can let John Boehner set the agenda, or he can take bold action and preempt much of the anti-Obama, anti-middle class demagoguery that will be spouted by the House leadership. By taking an aggressive stance, the President can achieve a foothold into the next great civil rights struggle while mitigating the inevitable havoc that’s about to be wreaked on the nation.


  1. I am hoping he goes for bold and pushes for the liberal agenda I KNOW he believes in. I'm sick of his drift toward the right.

  2. Given that it has led to the largest number of Republican congressmen since the 1940's, I am hoping for the exact same thing.