Obama on Gay Marriage

Barack Obama's decision to come out against efforts to amend the California constitution to overturn the marriage equality ruling there has naturally raised questions as to how Obama squares this with his claim to be opposed to gay marriage. I think both Julian Sanchez and Josh Patashnik show that you can reconcile Obama's various views on the matter and there's not a logical inconsistency here.

That said, I just don't find those accounts especially persuasive. I can't peer into Obama's mind and see what he's thinking, but this looks like a political strategy rather than a logically coherent set of statements. Contra Andrew, I don't think chalking this up to "cowardice" is the most reasonable interpretation. If you want to see the cause of marriage equality advanced, you need sympathetic politicians to win elections. If the sympathetic politicians all say things that are politically toxic, they'll just lose and nothing will be accomplished. But of the sympathetic politicians hew to the more politically tenable line that special anti-gay constitutional amendments are wrong and discriminatory, and also appoint the sort of progressive jurists who are likely to look sympathetically on gay rights causes, then you'll get to equality.

To make an analogy, anti-miscegenation laws were a horrible injustice but it wasn't "cowardice" of the politicians who favored civil rights to avoid running around the country losing elections left and right over the issue throughout the 1950s and 60s. You want to ask a politicians to take some risks on behalf of a controversial cause, but not so many risks that they lose. Backing the California referendum would have been pure cowardice -- surrendering any opportunity to advance the cause of gay equality in the name of political expedience. What Obama's doing is clever, hard-nosed practical politics.