Obama Plays Cat and Mouse With GOP on Gay Rights, Guns, Immigration, and Climate

National Journal

Like a cat toying with a mouse, President Obama is torturing Republicans one issue at a time--exposing how the GOP is dangerously bucking social, demographic, and scientific realities.

This president-and-prey drama played out Thursday when the Obama administration told the Supreme Court that California's same-sex marriage ban violates the Constitution's equal-protection clause.

Whether or not you agree with the White House's position, there is no denying that gay rights are achieving mainstream acceptance. Even deeply rooted beliefs on marriage are changing. In 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by 57 percent to 35 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Today, 48 percent support same-sex marriage and 43 percent oppose it.

"If we are truly created equal," Obama said in his Inaugural Address, "then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well." Like the country, Obama's stance has "evolved" toward accepting gay marriage.

The California law is one of two cases the Supreme Court will consider at the end of the month. The other addresses the Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states that outlaw such unions. For two years, the Obama administration has said that DOMA is unconstitutional, and several lower courts have agreed.

Even if the Supreme Court rules against Obama, the president stands to win politically. In addition to keeping his promise to liberal supporters, Obama can use the two high-profile cases to highlight how the country is edging away from the GOP's position on gay rights.

The same can be said for curbing gun violence, an issue gaining traction in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. On climate change, the overwhelming scientific consensus points to a globe in peril because of man-made pollution. Obama supports the science. Most Republicans don't.

On immigration, the GOP stood firmly against amnesty or any loosening of restriction until the 2012 election exposed the party's unpopularity in the fast-growing Hispanic community. Reluctantly, Republicans are now circling immigration reform, but it is not clear a bill will pass Congress this year. Nor is it clear that Democrats want reform as much as they want the immigration issue to be kept alive, like a mouse under a cat's paw.