President Barack Obama has a history of “evolving” on the issue of gay marriage. In 2004, when running for the Illinois State Senate, he said “that marriage is between a man and a woman.” Now, six years later, he has done a complete one-eighty. On Wednesday, the president announced that he “affirm[s] that…same sex couples should be able to get married.” While each of us has the right to change our mind on issues, Mr. Obama will face a substantial political backlash in light of this particular flip-flop.
News Alert: The left is being hypocritical. Shocking, I know, but true. And nobody is calling the president on his hypocrisy, so I will. Liberals, including the president, have been attacking Mitt Romney, the Republican (all-but) nominee to replace Mr. Obama, for his “flip-flops” on everything from health care to abortion. At one point in his life, Mr. Romney was apparently pro-choice; now, he claims to be 100% pro-life. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed into law a health insurance reform that allegedly served as the “blueprint” for ObamaCare; now, he ardently opposes Mr. Obama’s take-over of the health care industry (and with a very strong 10th amendment argument, I might add). But now that Obama has flip-flopped on yet another issue (there’s Gitmo and drones, and well, everything to do with Bush the younger’s defense policy), the left remains silent. When a conservative candidate changes their position, the left and its sympathetic media are swift to call them to task, claiming inconsistencies, painting them as outright liars. But when someone on the left side of the aisle flip flops, they are just “evolving;” they are heralded as enlightened, even heroic. But we’ve come to expect the hypocrisy so that’s not the frightening part of this story and will not affect the president in the polls.
One of the most obnoxious arguments I’ve heard in support of gay marriage is some version of this: “It doesn’t affect straight people if gays get married,” or “It won’t prevent straight people from getting married.” I’ll tell you how it affects me, and us as a society. I will spare you the ages-old “destruction of the sanctity of marriage” and “obliteration of the traditional family” arguments; they’ve been eloquently made by individuals far smarter than I. Going back to the separation of church and state argument I made here, the legalization of gay marriage will absolutely violate this separation. Don’t believe me? I’ll direct your attention to the contraception mandate in ObamaCare. Let’s examine its history.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), otherwise known as ObamaCare, contained a provision that requires employers to pay for birth control, including abortifacient drugs (which terminate a pregnancy in its earliest stages). This provision became law and when Christians, particularly the Catholic Church, raised their objections, the Obama Administration fought back. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, one of the nation’s leading pro-choice politicians, issued an order that required the Church to comply with the law, despite the fact that their deeply held religious beliefs prohibit the use of contraception and certainly condemn abortion. The Administration argued that “religious beliefs don’t give you a pass to not obey the law.”
Now, let’s apply the same argument to gay marriage. If gay marriage becomes legal, as it has in seven states, the government will apply the “it’s the law so you have to follow it” argument. It will force pastors, priests, and other clergy to perform marriages for same-sex couples, notwithstanding their religious objections to the practice of homosexuality. The Obama Administration has already begun its degradation of religious liberties; they will certainly not hesitate to continue. And that’s the scary part.
Soon, the Catholic Church will be required to provide for (what it views as) the sin of its employees. With that considered, it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see that Baptist pastors would have to officiate the sinful (in their view) marriage of two men or two women. Already struggling with the stigma of being anti-religion, this extra attack on people of faith could paint Mr. Obama into a corner he can’t get out of.
A recently released poll revealed that 50% of likely voting Americans support gay marriage. The problem with this number is that in every instance where the issue was put to a vote of the people, not only was it defeated, but the results weren’t even close. The absolute closest same sex came to passage by popular vote was in California’s 2008 Proposition 8 vote, in which the final vote was 52-48. Most recently, it was handily defeated in North Carolina by a final of 61-39. It has been defeated by as much as 72 points, with an average defeat of 33.25%. This means that only about one-third, nowhere near one-half, of voting Americans support gay marriage. So what does that mean for Mr. Obama?
It means his announcement yesterday will do far more harm than it will do him good. According to the New York Times, in 2008, Mr. Obama carried 95 percent of the black vote and 67 percent of the Hispanic vote; both of these constituencies tend to be more socially conservative, opposing gay marriage. Some have even posited, and I tend to agree, that it was the large Hispanic turnout in California to vote for Obama that lead to the passage of Prop 8. I believe that his newly announced position on this fiery issue will serve only to alienate many in the religious, minority communities. Will they vote for Romney instead? Likely not. Will they stay home? That is very possible and a “stay home” in an election as close as I expect this one to be is a proxy vote for Romney.
Further complicating Mr. Obama’s electoral blowback is the swing-state factor. Real Clear Politics lists nine “toss up” states; seven of those nine have gone on the record as opposing gay marriage by an average margin of nearly 17%. Three of the largest traditional swing states—Ohio, Virginia, and Florida—combining for 60 electoral votes (of the requisite 270) are on that list, as is North Carolina (which Obama won in 2008). If Mr. Obama loses any of these states, especially Florida (29 electoral votes), his chances of re-election plummet; and his new position on gay marriage may be his demise in a few of these key states.
BRINGING IT ALL HOME
There is a lot Barack Obama has done that won’t alter his chances at re-election. Healthcare likely will not matter. Giving the command to kill bin Laden likely won’t have a huge impact. Even his singular attack on religion with the contraceptives mandate probably could have been overcome. This issue, however, could certainly bring about his electoral failure. He is the first president in American history to openly support gay marriage and he did so at the worst time possible—right in the midst of his re-election efforts. A vast majority of Americans still claim to be religious and a slightly slimmer majority view gay marriage as immoral. President Obama acknowledged in the interview that it likely wasn’t politically expedient for him to make the announcement, and I happen to agree. While this move will ignite his base and the gay community will rally behind him, they were already going to support him. But it’s the moderates who will decide this election and I believe this issue, out of them all, is the one thing that weakens Mr. Obama nationally and will move enough moderates to Romney to make a difference.