COMMENTARY | Andrew Sullivan, writing for Newsweek, has proclaimed Barack Obama the "first gay president." This apparently does not mean Obama has suddenly discovered he is sexually attracted to other men.
The cover story, which depicts the president with a rainbow halo about his head, suggests Obama's struggle for identity as a biracial man is similar to gay people coming to terms with their sexuality. It is not as much of a leap as when Bill Clinton was proclaimed the first black president, but it is close. In fact, if uncertainty about what one's identity was all that it took to make one "gay," then every angst-ridden teenager would be "gay."
While President Obama's announcement that he is in favor of same-sex marriage (without the slightest intention of doing anything about it) has brought forth bizarre behavior on both sides of the issue, it has had some practical effects.
The first is a precipitous drop in Obama's popularity, as noted in recent polls. This is not just coming from people who find the idea of same-sex marriage icky or immoral. It comes from people who wonder where the president's priorities are. They wonder what does the right for gay people to marry have to do with their inability to get a job or that their home mortgages are under water?
Arguing over social issues can be politically damaging in times where there is a lack of peace and prosperity. While nationwide polling shows an increased tolerance toward gay people, according to Politico, the overriding issue is still the economy, stupid.
The second effect if it has removed all doubt that evangelicals and social conservatives have about Mitt Romney. All of the questions about Romney's flip-flopping on abortion and his Mormon faith have been put aside. Romney ventured to Liberty University, Jerry Falwell's old institution, and gave a speech about moral values, including his belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman, and got a warm reception.
Obama might be right about same-sex marriage on the ground of fairness alone. But his presentation, with its ham-handed blather about "evolution," left much to be desired. It had the whiff of political expediency and the effect of political immolation. Thus Obama bought himself the worst of both.
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