by Clara Smith
President Barack Obama made history last Wednesday when he became the first sitting U.S. President to announce his support for same-sex marriage. More important than his statement for equality is the president’s ability to implement change, but Obama’s recent announcement may cut four years off his time in office.
Obama’s announcement came on the heels of Vice President Joe Biden’s similar and unexpected statement of support. The executive administration initially cited Biden’s “characteristic candor” as reason for the supposed slip-up, according to “A Scramble as Biden Backs Same-Sex Marriage” on nytimes.com. Obama declared his support along with Biden’s just a few days later.
Throughout his term, Obama has reached out to many different minority groups, and detractors are claiming that his recent announcement is just a shallow ploy to gain the LGBTQ community’s vote in November. However, it instead seems to be a statement hastened by Biden’s unplanned support.
Because Obama supported same-sex marriage in 1996, it is unlikely his opinions have since changed. This year, he may just have been waiting to reaffirm his stance until after he secured his re-election.
Undoubtedly, Obama is gambling with votes by announcing his support six months before the election.
In 2008, Obama won all nine states that were considered “toss-ups,” as well as two states and a congressional district that typically vote Republican. This accounted for 142 electoral votes, according to nytimes.com.
This year, if each of these states and district votes for the candidate that best reflects its legislation on same-sex partnerships, Obama will lose 132 electoral votes, costing him the presidency and limiting his ability to effect change for LGBTQ people.
And though some have said that Biden’s support of same-sex marriage is no different from Dick Cheney’s support in 2004, Obama is running for president under far different conditions.
George W. Bush and Cheney won the election, but Bush had the benefit of his father’s reputation and the legacy of rallying Americans against a common enemy after 9/11.
In contrast, Obama is an African-American whose race has led to endless smear campaigns and whose father’s reputation yielded not much more than questions about the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate.
One can hope that Obama’s words will inspire and influence Americans. However, the pursuit of equality will have little meaning if Obama does not return to office.