Same-sex marriage or gay marriages in the US, has for years, not been recognized by the federal government, although such unions are recognized by some states. This lack of recognition by the federal government was codified by the 1996 Marriage Act, which also saw the state of Massachusetts become the first to recognize same-sex couples in 2004. This did not end there, this year both president Obama and the vice president Joe Biden have come clearly showing support gay marriages. Precisely, President Obama announced in an ABC News interview that after dwelling on the subject for long, he had come to consider that gay couples should not be barred from marrying. Still in the same interview, president Obama stated that the decision whether to legalize or not legalize these types of marriages should be left to individual states to decide. The declaration made Obama the first US sitting president to publicly state his support for gay marriages, and also marked a departure from his earlier stance on the matter. This pronouncement has invited critics from all walks of life. When looked at, these criticisms seem to belong to a particular cultural history and studies which recognize marriage as an institution that is based on pairing of the opposites. In other words, marriage is about uniting two persons of different sexes, male and female (Lee 299). Basing on a discredited theory, Strong, DeVault and Cohen indicate that sex differences are mere social constructs, or are meaningless (271-284). Douthat argue that only opposite-sex marriages deserve recognition as only opposite-sex marriages are natural (Para. 2). Olson, on the other hand, argues that gay marriage is like a race and therefore must be given rights to exist (para. 20). This is just but the beginning of debate on this issue of the same-sex marriage, with the presidential candidates squaring it out with the hope of appealing to this segment of voters. Therefore, this paper discusses how I think the issue of gay marriage will affect the U.S. presidential campaign in 2012, with emphasizes on the strategies or opinions that different candidates as well as their parties might choose to focus on to motivate voters toward favoring them.
To begin with, the constitution does not even spell out clearly the issue leaving it under debate, or for people and states to interpret what the union and marriage differences as spelt out in the constitution mean (Gerstmann 4). Like Douthat; it would be wise to identify that different-sex unions differ from same-sex unions. In addition, according to Douthat, without a constitutional amendment in “Equal Rights,” states are at liberty to consider the difference in establishing how to identify such unions. Possibly, like the New Hampshire and Vermont lawmakers, they will prefer to call these unions “marriage” which should be their choice (Levy, Karst and Winkler 594). On the other hand, states as diverse as Oregon, Nevada, Wisconsin and Washington, will term them differently. Precisely, that is the “intelligence” of the United States federal system. This seems to be the direction President Obama has taken. He came out clearly on the issue, but a gain left it upon the States to decide what to do. Therefore, during his campaign if confronted he is likely to indicate what that he only said what the constitution spells out.
Politically speaking, when President Obama declared his support for gay marriage, the position which contradicted his earlier stand just a few months before the presidential elections are held, he must have widely consulted. In fact, his advisors recognize that the same-sex marriage support by the public has been on the rise since the idea came public in the1990s. This is evidenced from the move taken earlier by his vice president, Joe Biden. Therefore, by endorsing same-sex marriage does not in any way bar him from staging a tough, spirited re-election campaign. To be precise, in the mid1990s, a paltry twenty percent of American Citizens supported its legalization. As of now, this figure has increased drastically. The same-sex marriage seems only to offend morality, and this has been seen to be the direction the voters might take. However, based on a recent survey (Newport, para. 3), on whether Republicans who ascribe to the Catholics views will employ this issue to campaign against president Obama, in general, the survey found that fifty three percent of Catholics supported the same-sex marriage idea.
In addition, fifty two percent of Independents supports it, and amongst Democrats, sixty two percent support gay marriage, whilst seventy four percent of conservative Republicans. However, it is hard to estimate that Obama will lose the Catholic support as he has in the past ridden on support from liberals among Catholics especially those who stand opposed to the hierarchy of the church. Therefore, the teachings of their leaders might not influence their stand.
With the election coming this fall, some people have predicted that it will be entirely focused on the economy and jobs, social issues such as same-sex marriage have already stolen the attention many times. But experts indicate that people should not expect such social issues to be the definitive markers of the November election. However, some analysts indicate that the move could end up to be much riskier for Obama, particularly in key swing states such as North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana, which have strong demographics and conservative bases that might take the matter with the president's standpoint. In the line up, several other states such as Maryland, Washington, Maine and Colorado have passed or are in the process of passing legislation in favor of same-sex union.
However, while president Obama can easily point to successes in supporting gay civil rights, the issue would leave him vulnerable to negative attacks that could to some degree alienate swing voters (Avlon, para.4). According to Alex Castellanos, a CNN contributor and a Republican strategist, Obama’s move will have some cost for him politically. This is based on the fact that, he is likely to lose some cultural blue-collar Reagan Democrats particularly in states such as North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio, which are his important swing states.But some people argue that his move was a bold one, as no other president in American history has ever supported the issue, and which could poll well amongst independent Americans looking for “strong conviction" in the presidency.According to a pro-Obama senior adviser, Paul Begala, in life and real issues that confront people, you will never get to agree with everyone on all issues. Paul Begala indicated that the president had taken the stand that is plainly in his heart, and that people in this day and age admire a 'conviction politician,' of which the president makes one.
The position taken by Obama was aimed at spurring enthusiasm among the young Americans who have in the past criticized him for not fulfilling on the job promise (Starks 38). This is based on the fact that young people, as well as the religiously unaffiliated quarters, are likely to believe all institutions, whether religious or not. In addition, the president fundamentally is betting that his pronouncement will spur enough enthusiasm amongst young voters to offset the votes he is likely to lose from conservative and moderate Americans who strongly disagree with him. Precisely, seventy one percent of registered voters between the ages of 18 to 29, which is crucial group for any presidential candidate who may support the legalization of same-sex marriage (Newton 76).
President Obama made his announcement at a time when surveys on the issue indicate that over thirty nine percent of United State’s Citizens believe same-sex couples should be lawfully allowed to marry (Newton 199). Another twenty four percent indicated that such couples should only be allowed to establish civil unions but not marriages, whilst about twenty seven percent opposed civil unions or marriage for lesbian and gay couples (Land 12-17). When being interviewed, Democratic strategist Julian Epstein indicated that even though studies show that the support for same sex marriage has increased in the recent past, the president’s support is not without political risk. Julian Epstein further indicated that, polls show that about every population segment is moving toward embracing gay marriage, although Republicans certainly will attempt to employ it as an axe in the African-American community along with non-college elite white voters, who are key voting quarters in which many persons oppose gay marriage.
Therefore, the issue of same-sex marriage, in the United States has, for many years, been a hot topic, where certain states have supported it while oppose it. Given the dependence of the Republicans on the "family values" support, Democrats may be right to appeal and court voters who support same-sex. Therefore, whether the topic is likely to play out asa distraction from main aspects like economic issues, it is undoubtedly a big step forward for same-sex marriage rights. Nonetheless, based on the discussion, the announcement by President Obama not only adds support to his bid for re-election, but also comes at a cost. American voters are split on different bases such as religion, independents and liberals. While on group supports the issue, others oppose it. So everything for him hangs in the balance.