But Obama has endorsed marriage equality federalism—not the notion that marriage for gays and lesbians is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution that can never be taken away. Obama has adopted the same position that Vice President Dick Cheney did in 2004, when Cheney said he believed in marriage equality but that the states should be allowed to decide by a show of hands, as North Carolina did Tuesday, whether gays and lesbians have the same rights as everyone else.Shortly before the president made his comments, he appeared in New York with Governor Andrew Cuomo. Politicker reports that Cuomo used a significant phrase:
“I believe in states rights. [emphasis added] I would like to see a place where this law is accepted all across the nation. I advocated as such,” he said. “I don’t know that the solution should be the federal government telling states what to do. I think the American people will get there and I think they are on the road to getting there. And I think it is about communication and understanding. I have evolved on this. I think people when they understand what we are talking about, they reflect on it, then I think you are going to see more and more of this country turning to a place where they support marriage equality."As our textbook and this blog have noted, liberals once regarded the phrase "states' rights" with suspicion, but the marriage issue has led many of them -- including the president -- to embrace it.
Will the president's change of position help or hurt politically? On the one hand, public opinion seems to be shifting in favor of same-sex marriage. Gallup reports:
Fifty percent of Americans believe same-sex marriages should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages -- down slightly from 53% last year, but marking only the second time in Gallup's history of tracking this question that at least half of Americans have supported legal same-sex marriage. Forty-eight percent say such marriages should not be legal.The ballot box provides a different picture, as Rachel Weiner reports at The Washington Post:
Yet 32 times since 1998, voters have gone to the polls and voted against gay marriage.* Thirty-eight states prohibit gay marriage in some fashion. Even in “blue” states like California, Oregon and Delaware, gay marriage bans stand. North Carolina’s Amendment One Tuesday night was just the latest in a long line of failures at the ballot box for proponents of gay marriage. (Support for bans is falling over time, according to HRC: in 2004 they passed on average 71 percent to 29 percent, but in 2008 the average was 57 percent to 43 percent.)
* A ban in Arizona failed in 2006 but a narrower version passed in 2008.SEE INFOGRAPHIC HERE