Earlier this week Obama came out in support of same sex marriage. I initially learned of it while playing SWTOR:
D: “Obama just came out for same sex marriage. Why do you think he did that?”
Me: “I’d say that it was a political move aimed at pandering to certain voters.”
D: “Really? I wanted to like Obama.”
R: “He’s a politician.”
Me: ” Look out, one of them is heading right at us.
D: “A politician?”
Me: “No, just an elite droid.”
D: “What does it think about same sex marriage?”
Me: “Not sure. I just put a rail shot through its electronic brain, so we’ll never know.”
Switching gears to be more serious, Obama’s evolution does raise some interesting questions. On the one hand, people do evolve in their views over time. Romney, for example, had to evolve a great deal during his attempt to secure the nomination and it seems reasonable to regard Obama as being at least as sincere as Romney. There is also the fact that Obama seems to have been for same sex marriage before being president, so perhaps he devolved rather than evolved.
On the other hand, it is tempting to think that Obama’s evolution is aimed at an advantage (Obama’s evolutionary advantage, so to speak). After all, politicians routinely change the views to achieve some practical end. For example, critics of Romney accused him of flip-flopping on his views.
One obvious counter to this view is that taking this stance on same sex marriage will cost him support. For example, many people in the black community who supported Obama are vehemently opposed to same sex-marriage. While they might not throw their support behind Romney, they might decline to vote for Obama. As another example, the recent success of the amendment in North Carolina shows that a majority of voters are against same sex marriage in that state. Given that other states have similar laws, this might actually cost him the election. Given the negative political consequences, it could be argued that his stance is one of principle rather than mere pandering.
The obvious response to this is that Obama’s strategists might have calculated that the loss of votes among people who would have voted for Obama but for this stance will be offset by the support he will gain (or keep) among those who favor same sex marriage. Those who are even more cynical might point to the fact that Obama is trying to get what some pundits are calling “gay money”, namely financial support from the more affluent members of the LGBT community and their allies. Some credence is given to this view by the fact that Obama enjoyed a significant surge in contributions after taking this position. He also, the cynical might note, took this position months before the election, hence allowing time for it to slip out of the minds of many voters.
Naturally, Obama’s motivations are not relevant to whether or not same-sex marriage is good or bad. In my own case, I support the legalization of same sex marriage on the grounds that the state should not impose on the liberty of the citizens except when doing so is necessary for preventing unwarranted harms to citizens. As such, my support for same-sex marriage stems from my classic conservative values regarding the legitimate role of the state and the extent to which it should impose its will on the citizens. Naturally, I would expect all those who oppose the state imposing its authoritarian will on the people will join me in opposing such attempts to restrict liberty.