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Some odd responses to Obama’s statement on same-sex marriage

Bill Fletcher Jr.

2012-05-23, Issue 586

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cc The White House
The American president has opened up a discussion not just about same-sex marriage but about democracy and tolerance unlike anything we have had in years.

Soon after Obama’s historic statement in favour of gay marriage, I watched the traffic on Facebook. Overall, the responses were very positive, even where people had questions as to the relative strength of the statement. But then I started seeing comments that questioned the sincerity of the statement. My immediate response was simple: who cares about his sincerity?

Ever since the 2008 campaign, the focus of too many Left and progressive individuals has been on the level of sincerity that Obama has on any number of issues. Such concerns miss the point. The question should be who stands to gain by different overtures, statutes, policies, etc.?

Consider this for a moment. The President has opened up a discussion not just about same-sex marriage but about democracy and tolerance unlike anything we have had in years. The right-wing is gearing up for a major campaign against Obama with the focal point being his stand on same-sex marriage. So, regardless of what Obama did or why, we now have a moment to speak with millions of people about the rights of LGBTQ folks and also about the sort of country that the political Right seems intent on constructing. We also have an opportunity to speak about broader issues of equality. With regard to this latter point, this is why we should not focus on whether there are allegedly more important issues facing the LGBTQ community. We should not expect Obama to do our work for us.

How many times do we have to be reminded that Obama is not a leftist and is not a representative of the progressive movement? He was not elected as part of a progressive slate. He was elected to lead the United States and he has been a corporate liberal throughout. Yes, many people invested expectations in him, but therein lies the problem; expectations without the requisite political pressure.

So, now, in the face of Obama’s announced position on same-sex marriage, the wrong thing to do would be to sit back and see what more he does. The thing to do is to make use of this statement and that of other members of his administration to push and to push hard for more. This is the time to push hard for legislation, beginning at the state level, against any and all forms of discrimination against the LGBTQ population. It is also the time to take on the Right. My favorite way is to remind them of Deuteronomy Chapter 22 every time they start talking about God,The Bible and marriage. Haven’t read Deuteronomy Chapter 22 recently? Take a look and then let’s talk about marriage and family values.


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* Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president ofTransAfricaForum and co-author of ‘Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor’ and ‘New Path Toward Social Justice’(University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA.

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

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