Conflict brews over Obama's same-sex decision
HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 5/23/2012, 7:28 p.m.
Feeling a wave of resentment from his religious constituents, President Barack Obama wasted little time contacting several important Black pastors to explain why he decided to support same-sex marriage.
About two hours after making the announcement last Wednesday morning on ABC with Robin Roberts, the president quickly summoned the ministers on a conference call. Two of them, the Rev. Joel C. Hunter, pastor of a conservative mega-church in Florida, and the Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., have offered bits of the discussion to the press.
"Some of the faith communities are going to be afraid that this is an attack against religious liberty," Hunter told Obama.
Obama said that was not the case. "That's not where we're going, and that's not what I want," he said.
Coates, who supports civil marriages for gay men and lesbians, said that most of the pastors have agreed to "work aggressively" on behalf of the president's campaign. Gay marriage, Coates concluded, "is contrary to their [the other pastors] understanding of Scripture." Even so, he said, there are some who are really "wrestling with this."
Another of Obama's ardent supporters is Jim Wallis, the chief executive of Sojourners, a leftist religious organization. To him, the president's position on the issue was a personal one, not public policy.
"We hope the president will reach out to people who disagree with him on this," Wallis told the press. "The more conservative churches need to know, need to be assured that their religious liberty is going to be respected here."
While two other prominent pastors the president called--T.D. Jakes and Otis Moss Jr.--have not released any statements, recent polls indicate that the majority of Americans seem to side with the president, including 51 percent of Catholics.
Others, however, are opposed to the president's decision, some--certainly Republicans and evangelicals--even suggesting his decision was a cynical ploy to gain a political advantage.
According to a recent CBS News/New York Times poll, it is reported that 67 percent of Americans think Obama made his decision "mostly for political reasons" rather than believing his story about his evolving position on the issue.
Even worse, the poll reveals that his attempt to portray Mitt Romney and Republicans as enemies of women is getting very little traction and may, in fact, be backfiring on him. If so, that setback may have been temporarily ameliorated after the president's appearance at Barnard College, where he stressed the importance of women being at the table, stressing "and at the head of the table."
How all of this will impact the upcoming elections is anybody's guess, but it seems that if Obama was to have a change of heart--a position provoked by Vice President Joe Biden's announcement--this may have been done early enough to be lost in the shuffle by September.
Moreover, this was not an executive order from the president, and same-sex marriage is something that will have to be ratified by the states. It will be interesting to see how that plays out when bonded New Yorkers try to exercise their equal rights in Florida or North Carolina, where same-sex marriage is not recognized.
There are other barriers of equal difficulty when it comes to the matter, like how it will be handled by the IRS, which forbids joint filings by same-sex couples. And what about the Defense of Marriage Act signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, which deems marriage as something that exists between a man and woman? He left it to the states to enact their own laws.
But Pandora's box is wide open now, and it's too late to stem the tide of reaction that is as certain as daybreak.