Few people truly believe Barack Obama when he claims his position on same-sex marriage is "evolving." He first publicly endorsed marriage equality in 1996 while running for the Illinois state senate. At the time, just 27 percent of the population shared his views, according to a Gallup poll. Now, Gallup's tracking numbers from last year have 53 percent of the country favoring SSM. It might have been politically expedient for Obama to position himself against same-sex unions in 2008, but it's impossible to imagine anyone at the vanguard of LGBT civil rights like that young Illinois legislator truly changing his mind.
That's why his continuing "evolution" makes no sense. It ticks off liberals and moderates who are convinced that Obama does not have the courage to stand up for his convictions. And it certainly wins him no plaudits from conservatives, who also believe it is a smokescreen to hide his true agenda. To wit, here's RNC Chairman Reince Priebus on MSNBC earlier today:
“So we’ve been clear,” Priebus said. “I swear to you, I still can’t figure out what Stephanie [Cutter, Obama campaign deputy manager], where her position is. And the president’s position on the issue to me, it’s not so much the issue that is as important as watching how the president is trying to play this game. They want to have everything. They want the vice president out there nuancing the issue, fully embracing gay marriage. Then they march out Arne Duncan and embrace gay marriage.”
Conservatives are not going to trust Obama either way; meanwhile, Obama is giving liberals every reason to distrust him. To be fair, an Obama endorsement of same-sex marriage rights would have little immediate change on policy. It's hard to imagine any pro-LGBT legislation passing the current House. Yet even as the Obama administration has made several strides in favor of civil rights—the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" is the most prominent example—he's fallen short in other areas, such as refusing to sign an executive order that would have barred employers with government contracts from discriminating on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.