Yesterday, when I announced my determination to slow down the pace of blogging this week, I had intended to post only a handful of pieces on gay issues, first to indication my opposition to North Carolina’s Amendment One, then to offer a followup on the Grenell Matter, noting how that latter showed not the anti-gay animus that some Democratic partisans and gay activists were determined to find in the GOP, but the party’s own awkwardness on gay issues (for more on that, just read the passage I quoted in this post from the Huffington Post‘s Jon Ward).
Where the presumptive Republican nominee has handled social conservative concerns about a gay staffer in a most awkward manner, his Democratic counterpart has shown incredible “cowardice,” as one blogger put it, in handling the issue of gay marriage. Bruce blogged that Obama “stepped in it.” Others have been even less forgiving.
The real problem is that Obama didn’t try to find some sort of compromise in the first two years of his term when he had overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Had he had some significant political savvy, he might, for example, have sat down with gay leaders and pointed to the passage of Prop 8 in California, saying that it wouldn’t be prudent to push forward on gay marriage per se, but would instead focus on civil unions (touting such legislation as the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (H.R. 2517), a bill in the 111th Congress “which would grant domestic partners access to federal employee health care benefits“); he would have been wise to ask these leaders to identify key Republicans (e.g. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in the House and Susan Collins in the Senate) who would be willing to help spearhead such efforts.
The Democrat would then be able to point to efforts (likely successful) he had made to advance the cause of same-sex couples. There might not be a public outcry over gay marriage had he had accomplished something in terms of federal recognition of same-sex civil unions, even if just for government employees.
The problem is that the president didn’t do much (if anything) to press for congressional action benefiting gay couples when he his party had majorities in both houses of Congress. And even as gay bloggers were clamoring for action, the heads of certain gay groups accepted Obama’s excuses for inaction.
Simply put, when the president had a chance, he didn’t move forward on civil unions. He didn’t show his much-heralded skills as a calm negotiator, able to bring people together, and attempt to forge a workable compromise on state recognition of gay marriages. Instead, he just punted, promising that he would get to the matter when had a moment. He sensed that gay groups would still rally ’round him.
And all too many of his gay supporters did just that; they took the Democrat at his word. Maybe they should have been reading Jim Geraghty’s blog; they would have known that all Obama promises come with an expiration date.