Bobbie Black, Staff Reporter
May 16, 2012
President Barack Obama is now not only the first African-American president of the United States, but also the first president to openly support gay marriage.
This monumental change could be the force that finally extends equal rights to all American citizens.
In the past, Obama stated that he fully supported civil unions but did not support gay marriage.
Obama clarified his new position, saying, “I’ve been going through an evolution on this issue. I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. At a certain point I’ve just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
As gay marriage becomes a more accepted idea in America, it’s possible that the president has chosen to evolve with the times and support the rights of all the citizens in the country he leads. However, I can’t help but ask, why now?
Mitt Romney is currently the most likely opponent to President Obama in the upcoming election. Romney‘s tendency to ‘flip-flop’ his position on issues has become habitual in his political career. Romney claims he has never wavered on his opinion that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Interestingly enough, in 1994 when Romney was running for Senate in Massachusetts, he positioned himself as an advocate for gay and lesbian rights. He said, “If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will.” Could it be possible that Obama’s sudden shift is similar to Romney’s tactical shift in ‘94?
Besides creating a fundamental distinction between the two candidates, if Obama did purposefully save his declaration of support for the 2012 election, it would be one of the greatest political ploys since Frank Luntz changed the name of the estate tax to the “death tax.”
There is true genius to Obama’s shift. He will probably gain new support from the gay community and lock in his current supporters but the real brilliance is the line that this issue will draw between voters. A large, untapped source of votes is young Americans. Obama was able to get a large following of millennials in 2008 and will definitely get their attention with this bold move.
The younger generation shows little to no interest in national issues except for the ones that fall on a social scale. For the most part, the younger generation adamantly supports gay marriage and if the only clear difference between the two candidates is that one supports gay marriage and the other doesn’t, it’s not even a contest for who will receive the young vote.
In 2008, 57 percent of the 18 and older population voted in the presidential election. This was the highest turnout for voters in the last 40 years. Americans are divided on the issue of gay marriage, with 50 percent for it and 48 percent against it.
If the election becomes centered on this topic, Obama may have found the right angle to get the other 43 percent of Americans up and voting in November. The reignition of this heated topic has created a national frenzy and will definitely add an interesting twist for the presidential debates. Let the games begin.