President Barack Obama’s decision to stop avoiding the subject and express unequivocal support for equal rights for the LGBT community stems first and foremost from clear political considerations rather than out of moral reasoning.
Half a year before the elections, the Obama campaign is struggling to create any excitement among the members of the left-wing branch of the Democratic Party, who were disappointed by Obama’s compromising and soft positions on many key issues.
The campaign is also struggling to raise the exorbitant amount of money it takes to run for president, after the White House lifted the limit on campaign contributions from corporations, which the Republican Party relies on. Obama’s public support for same-sex marriage is intended to bring in new blood to the American left, and convince it that even after more than three years of disappointments and disagreements, Obama is still their man in Washington, and that he is willing to say brave things regarding a controversial topic.
After it was pushed to the margins by Vice President Biden, who returned the issue to the agenda, Obama and his administration are trying to exploit this renewed interest in LGBT rights in order to convince activists to hit the streets and the liberal donors to reach for their wallets.
But in the complex and unpredictable world of American identity politics, Obama’s dramatic gesture toward one branch of the Democratic Party may end up embroiling it with another one. Most blacks and Latinos, without which Obama could not win the election, oppose same-sex marriage. Their opposition is culturally and religiously rooted, and despite the change taking place in the respective communities, the opposition to same-sex marriages remains alive and well.
On Tuesday, at the very same time that Obama gave his dramatic interview to ABC, citizens of North Carolina voted on an amendment to their state constitution that would outlaw same-sex marriages. Several of the districts that had a large majority vote in favor of the amendment were populated mostly by African-Americans - the same ones who helped Obama get a surprise win in North Carolina, a state that has not elected a Democratic president since 1976.
It seems that Obama and his administration believe that the issue of same-sex marriage will not constitute a decisive favor among the African-American and the Latino publics, and that the two will support him in November with the same enthusiasm that they showed when they supported him in 2008. It is also clear that they expect that the issue will disappear from the agenda within a couple of days, making way for the usual preoccupation with the American economy.
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