Sunday, June 15, 2008

Obama on Gay Marriage

I'm curious what JS, MP and others who have expressed some concern about how forcefully Sen. Obama would support gay rights as President will think of this report, which suggests that the Senator expressed cautiously worded support for gay marriage in a meeting with Protestant ministers. Brave for sticking to his guns in the face of a hostile crowd, or wimpy for using "cautious" language?


Gavin said...

He's a politician, not a pure soul -- he has to get shit done, right? Though, more and more I wonder what Obama will get done, and I don't think it will be much. I doubt he'll even get out of Iraq. We'll get a middle class tax cut, a drop in the bucket, but will he jack up the taxes of the rich which were slashed by two-thirds over the past 30 years? Doubtful. It's weird how a lot of people see an Obama presidency as a solution to all their problems. In one of my classes we were talking about healthcare and why the U.S. is ranked like 17th in life expectancy (want to blow minds in class? show stats where the U.S. is lagging severely). Obviously the reason is no universal healthcare unlike the rest of Europe, and a student pipes in, "That's why we need Obama as president." I let them know that Obama isn't changing healthcare much at all, and no candidates are even close to talking about single-payer healthcare. They were surprised -- O's gonna do it all, isn't he?

Anyway, gay marriage seems pretty tangential, sort of a Will-n-Grace style sellout to Profamily America to me... O supports civil unions after all. Shit, marriage means pretty little in the U.S. outside tax laws and estates, since fewer than half last. I think economic and environmental collapse should register much more prominently on people's political radars. One of my friends pointed out that, Roveian election tactics aside, Bush hasn't been very anti-gay in rhetoric or practice.

Andy said...

Well, politics is, as they say "the art of the possible." I ain't as star struck on Obama as I once was, but I do think he's a damn sight better than the alternatives, and probably the best possible alternative within the contemporary social-hegemonic construction of the "possible." I disagree with you about the tax issue. The Bush Tax cuts are not very popular these days, even among some conservatives. They expire in 2011, all Obama has to do to roll them back is prevent congress from making them permanent. With Dems posed to pick up 4 or more senate seats and probably a dozen or so House seats in the coming elections, that shouldn't be too hard. It also doesn't hurt that Obama's campaign isn't relying on a handful of maxed out donors - not that Obama's supporters are poor, they're solidly middle-class, but he isn't dependent on folks in that over $200,000 per year income bracket that will be taxed more heavily without the Bush cuts.

As for healthcare, yeah single-payer is the way just about every expert says we should go, and yeah Obama isn't suggesting a single payer plan. That's a shame, in my opinion, but lets not pretend there is no difference between the Obama plan (which calls for greater public sector involvement in health care and vigorous public intervention to make it more affordable) and the McCain plan (which seeks to further privatize the health care system).

As for the notion that "Bush hasn't been very anti-gay" I again have to disagree firmly. You can dismiss things like things like the anti-gay marriage Ohio issue 1 as mere electioneering if you want, but they do a hell of a lot more than preventing gay Americans from succumbing to the horror that is square uneventful cohabitation in a low-density residential neighborhood (which I realize is a vision of the very apocalypse to young, hip, cultural theorists, but to many others is just not such a scary notion.) In fact this is just about the only right it doesn't deny them. Instead it cuts them off from even forming anything that would be the "semblance of a marriage" via contract law. That means no shared health care, no visitation rights, no rights to property left after one partner dies, etc. Was Bush only "using those issues to get elected?" Who the fuck cares. They do what they do. And having him in office mouthing platitudes about the "sanctity of marriage" at every state of the union address gives the logic behind them political and cultural capital.

Furthermore, there is a whole great current of policy in the Bush administration that, even if it doesn't explicitly target gay folks, still has negative outcomes for them. Take for example, his concerted effort to transfer social services from secular, public organizations to private "faith-based" charities. Charities that claim, and have been granted, the ability to discriminate against gay people as part of their first amendment right to free religion. Michelle Goldberg's book "Kingdom Coming" gives a good account of some of the outcomes of this. It ain't good news for gay and lesbian people.

So Gavin, while I understand your negative reaction to some of the Obama hype (I've even felt some myself from time to time), I disagree with your analysis of some of the issues. I think ultimately even the incremental positive steps likely to be implemented by an Obama administration, while likely to fall short of some ideal measures of change, still represent a meaningful change for the better, and the energetic support for his campaign among young people is a necessary and healthy step in getting that change accomplished. Do these young people exhibit the sort of critical thought we might like them to at every juncture. No. But historically, electorates never have. If we want them to, we're going to have to work a lot harder as educators.

Gavin said...

Fair 'nough, I like Obama enough to spend time in Gary getting out the vote for him. But I'm not too thrilled with his foreign policy stuff or large parts of his economic stuff (though parts are good). Ending the occupation(s) is still my #1 priority though (so not trendy any more), and that is almost certain to fall through the cracks esp. with Samantha "humanitarian intervention" Power being so influential over his fo.po. Also he doesn't seem as adroit a politician as he did initially -- he can bang out a speech, but he is a surprisingly mediocre debater, and did not impress me with how he handled the scandals thrown at him (race speech notwithstanding). I don't think he initially believed he would get the nom, he wanted to get his name out there for 2012 or 2016, but I hope he's ready because he's almost certainly going to beat McCain. Maybe those "experience" memes from the Shillaries sunk into my consciousness. Like do you think the Dems that voted for the Patriot Act are gonna repeal it, esp. if the Repubs can use it as a hammer in 2010? That's the shit that worries me.

As for Bush not so anti-gay, this is what my gay friends tell me, which was shocking for me to hear too. But people have only gotten more accepting in general since don't ask don't tell, and Bush doesn't have a lot of capital (other than $$$) these days. Most gay people I know don't really care about marriage if they have the civil union option. Maybe they like not having to get their relationships validated by straight norms... really I think the heteros have more to learn from the homos than the other way around. Don't get me wrong, I think that anyone should be able to get married if they want to, but I don't think it's even making my top ten issues. And 'member, 'Family values' is more than just a coded jab at da gayz, it's against abortion, premarital sex, sex ed, single parents, divorce... you know, the shit the majority of America is into. Which is why those douchebags will always lose in the end.