We're having a gay old week, aren't we? The White House press corps battles poor Jay Carney about Obama's eternally evolving position on same-sex marriage after the president's presumed proxies, Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, come out in favor. Meanwhile, North Carolina—an important swing state—reveals exactly why, in an election year, Obama might be just a little cautious about openly endorsing what his administration clearly backs: Why would any candidate in a high-stakes election make himself a target on an issue that has significant opposition in key states? My colleague Gabriel Arana wrote the definitive piece on yesterday's loss in North Carolina; I don't really have anything to add. But the National Journal's Alex Roarty has some excellent reporting and analysis on that consideration here, including the obvious:
Obama’s description of himself as “evolving” on the issue amounts to a public flirtation, and has prompted speculation that he’ll become a gay-marriage supporter in time for the Democratic National Convention this summer in Charlotte. But the president is counting on North Carolina and demographically similar states, like Virginia, to lift him to a second term. Assuming an unpopular position on such a high-profile issue is politically perilous in those states and others where he may need every last vote to beat back Republican foe Mitt Romney.
Sure, national polls show Americans slightly in favor of same-sex marriage. But Presidents don't get elected nationally; they get elected state by state. At TPM, Kyle Leighton has still more intelligent analysis, including:
A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed gay marriage supported by two-thirds of Democrats, but only 46 percent of independents. Essentially, Dems are asking Obama to endorse something that they are already for, at the cost of possibly losing votes in the middle.
Agree or disagree, there's a coherence to the current position.
But my goal today is to broaden our focus beyond the should-he-or-shouldn't-he debate. Randy Roberts Potts, Oral Roberts' grandson, wrote a beautiful and moving essay in the Washington Post linking Maurice Sendak's death with the North Carolina vote and his own upcoming marriage:
Some gay and lesbian couples have lived with each other in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for sometimes 20, sometimes 30, sometimes 40, and sometimes, including the case of Maurice Sendak, for 50 years, while religion and society simply looked away.
“And Max, the king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.”
That’s how I felt, when I came out at 31 years old, surrounded by my fellow wild things and shunned by my family and my church. Angry. Alone. Mean, even. We were wild things, I was told, and we embraced our wildness; but I didn’t really want to be wild. I wanted to raise my children, go to their softball games and school plays, watch them grow up and, someday, have a husband who wanted to do those things with me.
Sendak was also gay and he lived with his partner, Eugene Glynn, for over 50 years, but it was not quite long enough - Glynn died in 2007, only a year before their home state of Connecticut finally allowed two men in love to apply for, and receive, a marriage license. A year after Glynn died, Sendak told the New York Times “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy. They never, never, never knew.” A gay man writing children’s books could not even think about coming out, even a man some consider the greatest children’s writer of the last century.
Meanwhile, the Guardian offers up an impressively readable chart showing how where and how LGBT rights are protected (or not) in partnership recognition, parenting, housing, employment, hospital visitation, and school, by region and by state. They really do an amazing job of showing the wheel of fortune that LGBT folks spin when we are born somewhere or, later, pick a place to live. My brother loves the Texas climate and wants all his siblings to move there, too. But looking at the Guardian wheels-of-rights, you can easily see why I live where I do.