Some of us have raised objections for the last two years on President Obama’s conflicting positions on gay rights. Now, White House Spokesman Jay Carney was able to nail down concretely the President’s position on gay marriage: he is still “grappling” with it.
The President’s position on gay rights have been so conflicted as to be incomprehensible. For two years, his Administration opposed challenges to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy by adopting extreme arguments that denied arguments of constitutional protections based on sexual orientation and insisting that the military had the right to discharge people solely because they are known to be gay or lesbian. Notably, the Administration has always opposed claims that sexual orientation should be afforded the same type of protection as gender.
This week, Obama switched his position on DOMA and decided that, after two years of defending the law, his Administration would no longer argue for its constitutionality. Critics noted that this decision seemed driven more by politics than principle since the Administration waited until after the mid-term elections to take the position on the constitutional issue.
Holder’s explanation for switching sides was forced and unconvincing. He notably, however, did not endorse arguments for added constitutional protections akin to gender. Instead, he focused entirely on the lowest rational basis test.
In his statement, Carney would only say that Obama viewed the Defense of Marriage Act as “unnecessary and unfair.” However, the White House refused to say that this was a recognition of the right to same-sex marriage. It is just “unnecessary and unfair.” That puts same-sex marriage in the same category of other “unnecessary” acts like some redundant farm subsidy or denial of ERISA benefits.
The message may seem confusing and jumbled but it is not. The Administration does not accept that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marriage. It is only if you reject the constitutional claim that you are left like Hamlet on the Potomac — “grappling” with whether to recognize same-sex marriage as a matter of fairness . . . or politics.