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Monday, July 14, 2008

Obama Opposes California Marriage Amendment/McCain Meets with Log Cabin Republicans

Sacramento Bee:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who previously said the issue of gay marriage should be left up to each state, has announced his opposition to a California ballot measure that would ban same-sex marriages.

In a letter to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club read Sunday at the group's annual Pride Breakfast in San Francisco, the Illinois senator said he supports extending "fully equal rights and benefits to same-sex couples under both state and federal law."

"And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states," Obama wrote.

Obama had previously said he opposes same-sex marriage but that each state should make its own decision.

A spokesman for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who last week endorsed Proposition 8 on the Nov. 4 California ballot, accused Obama of continuing a pattern of changing his position on issues.

"It just depends on where you catch him and what time of day … whether it's public financing, town hall debates and now gay marriage," said Rick Gorka, a spokesman for the Arizona senator.

Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman, declined to comment on the McCain campaign's allegations. But LaBolt noted that the Illinois senator opposed a proposed federal ban on gay marriage. Campaigning in Pennsylvania in April, Obama said he would oppose a similar constitutional ban under consideration by the Legislature there.

"Senator Obama opposes all divisive and discriminatory constitutional amendments such as the one in California," LaBolt said.

McCain endorsed a 2006 Arizona initiative defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, which was defeated. But he voted against a federal constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

Dale Carpenter has a must read post on this.

So what's really going on? I think there are two things happening. First, I don't think Obama really opposes gay marriage deep down and I suspect he does see the exclusion of gay couples as a kind of discrimination. He has never been able to explain his reasons for opposing gay marriage — which is very revealing for a man who's otherwise unusually thoughtful. He just says, basically, I oppose gay marriage "because I say so." So calling the amendment discriminatory and divisive may be candor squeaking through. Second, and probably more importantly, this is an instance where politics necessitates cognitive dissonance. Gays and those who support gay equality are a critical constituency in the Democratic Party. Obama can't keep the gay-friendly base happy and support the amendment, which is rightly seen by them as involving huge stakes for the gay-marriage movement. But at the same time he has calculated that he can't come out for gay marriage as a matter of public policy because that might mean losing the election.

Don't get me wrong, I strongly oppose the California amendment and intend to contribute to its defeat. And on one level, I am very gratified by Obama's opposition. It might actually help sway some of his socially conservative black and Latino supporters, who will vote in large numbers in California in November. But then, I support gay marriage. If I opposed it, I'd probably be either mystified or angered.

Obama's explanation for why he opposes gay marriage and opposes the proposed California amendment banning it can't be squared as a matter of logic. It's a matter of politics, which says something about how much things have changed in a short time. We've gone from the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 opposing gay marriage and supporting state constitutional amendments to ban it (as Kerry did, even where gay marriage existed, in Massachusetts); to a Democratic nominee who says he opposes gay marriage, but who's uncharacteristically at a loss to explain himself, and who opposes the only way to prevent it from becoming a reality in a state with 40 million people; to, I predict, a nominee in 2012 or 2016 who will say he or she personally favors gay marriage but says the president has no role in the decision because this is an issue that should be left to the states.

Meanwhile John McCain holds private meetings with both the Leviticus Crowd in Ohio and Log Cabin Republicans (though not at the same time.)

Money quote:

Others said McCain can't win evangelicals merely by meeting with them privately; he has to embrace them publicly. "We told him that if he didn't come out and share his pro-family stances on these issues, then he can kiss Ohio goodbye," Burress said. "We can't deliver his message for him."

The point is that McCain won't be meeting openly with either group. Personally I'd like to see a joint meeting with both groups. Gay Patriot reported on the meeting, but only got comment from Log Cabin Republicans. Ben Smith from Politico confirmed the meeting with the McCain Staff.

Peter LaBarbera is already skeptical of McCain, but does not seem to know of the meeting.

I still find it ironic that Log Cabin Republicans ran an advertising campaign to deep six Mitt Romney's campaign. Romney's position on discrimination laws and DADT were less to LCR's liking than McCain's. Ironically, LCR and Peter LaBarbera worked together to deep six Romney - and were successful.