Friday, March 13, 2009

Will Obama Let the Gays Marry? Heads or Tails He Loses, Says Times

Well, it’s pretty obvious that the New York Times is enjoying bringing the gay marriage issue to the political front-burner on Day 51 of President Obama’s already-exhausting term. You know, there have been some moments since the president’s inauguration that I’ve been sure the United States was undergoing some kind of political Groundhog Day back to the Clinton years, except this time the hot topic isn’t gays in the military, which was and still remains a slam-dunk issue as far as I’m concerned. (Here’s a great piece from the Huffington Post, by the way, on how Argentina and Israel, among other countries, are more intellectually and morally enlightened than America on this issue.) Frankly, anyone who doesn’t understand why “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a horrid rule should have the word “homophobe” tattooed on their face and start acting like Mike Tyson on a really bad day. Yes, I realize that’s redundant.

Anyway, in the Times’ story today, the situation is really spelled out that awaits the president:

Just seven weeks into office, President Obama is being forced to confront one of the most sensitive social and political issues of the day: whether the government must provide health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

In separate, strongly worded orders, two judges of the federal appeals court in California said that employees of their court were entitled to health benefits for their same-sex partners under the program that insures millions of federal workers.

But the federal Office of Personnel Management has instructed insurers not to provide the benefits ordered by the judges, citing a 1996 law, the Defense of Marriage Act.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama said he would “fight hard” for the rights of gay couples. As a senator, he sponsored legislation that would have provided health benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

Now, Mr. Obama is in a tough spot. If he supports the personnel office on denying benefits to the San Francisco court employees, he risks agitating liberal groups that helped him win election. If he supports the judges and challenges the marriage act, he risks alienating Republicans with whom he is seeking to work on economic, health care and numerous other matters.

But here’s the thing: Didn’t Obama alienate Republicans by becoming the duly elected president of the United States? I mean, isn’t it true that unless he’s a gun-toting, NRA-card-carrying, welfare-eliminating, Medicare-slashing, tax-destroying, anti-choice homophobe he’d be on their target list, their enemies list, no matter what? Not that I think Michael Steele is savviest lion in the lair, but when the guy deviates from Republican orthodoxy on the abortion issue, the party establishmentarians start getting hysterical, circling like vultures. Not a way to, um, broaden the big tent, methinks.

No, the Party of No really has been clear: They want Barack Obama to fail. They’ll even take down the United States of America economically or any other way to make their point. So, really, how much risk is there for him on gay issues? It’s not as if a small gulf separates the Democrats from the Republicans on this, right? It’s not as if there’s room for any kind of manuvering. And wouldn’t it be better to deal with this issue earlier in his term?

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