Columns, Opinion

RILEY: The culture war

This past weekend, thousands rallied at Boston City Hall and in cities around the nation in support of gay marriage. There was reason for proponents of same-sex marriage to celebrate since Connecticut had just recently begun granting marriage licenses to gay couples. However, the mood at these rallies was anything but festive, as protesters gathered to show their anger toward the passage of Proposition 8 in California that banned gay marriage.’

California was not the only state to pass an amendment against gay marriage on Election Day; it was joined by Arizona and Florida. This didn’t come as a big surprise to many, since both these states have large elderly populations that aren’t as receptive to the idea of gay marriage as young people might be.

But did the people of California, known for their free spirits and laid-back outlook, really just pass that amendment? The same Californians who elected a movie star governor? The same California that is home to San Francisco, the gay capital of the world? It’s hard to believe it could have happened there. So what was responsible for this improbable result?’

Many who opposed Proposition 8 immediately pointed the finger of blame at the Mormon Church. This religious group poured tens of millions of dollars into a Yes on 8 campaign. Ironic, isn’t it? The religion that’s famous for polygamy, which is taboo to most, spent a fortune to pass a law defining marriage between one man and one woman.’ But I guess gay marriage supporters didn’t find this as amusing as I did, as evident by their angry protests at Mormon Church sites.’

As personally disappointed as I am that the measure passed, I think that the Mormon Church is being used as a scapegoat here.’ There is nothing new about an organization financially supporting a proposed law that they believe in. If the other side had a chance to get that kind of money from an outside organization, I doubt that they would’ve turned it down.’ But maybe there is an unlikely suspect that fingers could be pointed at.

I’m talking about our next president, Barack Obama.’ While he did speak out against Proposition 8, his presence on the ballot may have indirectly led to the amendment’s passage.’ On Nov. 4, African Americans went to the polls in California in record numbers, and 70 percent of them voted in favor of banning gay marriage.’ If Obama had not been on the ticket, the black turnout may not have been nearly as great, and the Proposition 8 vote could have been much closer.’

While Obama is changing politics, he is just another Democratic politician who wants to have it both ways on the issue of gay rights.’ He urged Californians to vote no on Proposition 8, but he also made it clear that he believes marriage should be between one man and one woman. Obama criticizes the passage of this amendment, but he also says that the issue of same sex marriage should be left up to individual states instead of the federal government.’

Vice-President-elect Joe Biden is full of contradictions as well. During the debate, he said, ‘in an Obama-Biden administration there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.’ But if a gay couple wants to have the same kind of partnership as straight couples do, I guess that’s a tiny exception to Obama and Biden’s position. So much for ‘absolutely no distinction.’

It’s time for Obama and the rest of the Democrats in Washington to come out of the closet and tell us how they really feel about gay marriage.’ Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem likely to happen in the near future because the pandering and campaigning that takes place before Election Day will continue long after Nov. 4. The 2010 mid-term election, as well as the 2012 presidential election, is already underway. Americans are strongly divided when it comes to cultural issues such as gay marriage and abortion.’ There are still plenty of ‘values voters’ out there who will punish candidates who don’t have the same moral ideals as the religious right.’ Supporting gay marriage might just cost Democrats their cherished majority in Congress and maybe the presidency.

If Obama wants to show that he is serious about bringing ending discrimination, he can start by immediately repealing the poorly crafted ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ rule in the military.’ Our armed forces already stretched thin, and kicking good soldiers out of the military on the basis of sexual orientation will only further shrink enlistment numbers and put our national security at risk.’ This action may lead to further efforts on behalf of the Obama administration to spread equality for all, but until Democratic leaders get behind the gay marriage movement, the California vote may not be the last surprising restriction of equality.

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