The Religious Politics of Same-Sex Marriage

Fascinating developments in the USA where, as North Carolina comes out and votes yes on Amendment One (banning the recognition not just of gay marriage but Civil Unions in the State), President Obama comes out and declares his support for gay marriage. This was followed up by Romney declaring his opposition, but the big story was Obama trying to make a religious case for the innovation and the way that was reported.

This is something that, you know, we’ve talked about over the years and she, you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do. And that is that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better I’ll be as president.

Cranmer has some interesting thoughts about how the media is two-faced when it comes to reporting these events.

His Grace has noticed something: when right-wingers quote Jesus or other verses of Scripture in defence of the traditional view of marriage as a union of one man and one woman for the purpose of procreation , they are increasingly cast as religious wing-nuts and homophobic bigots. But when left-wingers invoke Scripture or Christ to the cause of same-sex union, there is a veritable frenzy of enlightened jubilation that they have grasped profound truth and seen the light. Those believers who once walked exclusively in the heterosexual valley of the shadow of death have found true comfort in the gay staff of righteousness; those who once insisted on blind gender complementarity can now see; those who were lame in arguing for mothers and fathers can run a marathon of rainbow joy that one may have two fathers (or mothers). When the antediluvian heterosexual-marriage bigots repent of their medieval myopia, the angels weep for joy and all the heavenly host rejoices.

Now, that’s an interesting point to make and has some basis, but I’m far more fascinated as to why Obama has made a religious argument for gay marriage. I think it has far less to do with Obama being convinced from Scripture that gay marriage is a good thing (I think he justs thinks it is period, and it goes down very well with his core vote) and far more to do with his opponent’s religion and the problem that raises for Romney.

Here’s the thinking that went on in the White House (one supposes): “What we really need is to fracture the Republican core vote and make sure that as many Evangelicals as posible don’t vote for Romney the Mormon. But how do we do that without making Romney’s mormonism an explicit issue which would open us to charges of religious intolerance? Why not raise religion as a side issue to another issue and in doing so make  all those Evangelicals think about how their natural candidate doesn’t have the same faith they have. By keeping religion on the front burner we constantly implicitly remind the Republican core vote that Romney is, in their minds, part of a cult.”

I think that’s actually very clever politics, but it has the possibility of back-firing if it actually prompts some Evangelicals to vote for Romney because he opposes gay marriage. The way that the White House will continue this narrative may very well depend on the response to polling asking questions like “Would support for gay marriage make you more / less likely to vote for Obama / Romney”. If the Obama camp determines that this approach is actually gaining them an electoral advantage, watch for much much more of this kind of thing coming out of the White House.

Of course, we need to remember that marriage (and civil unions) are a State issue, not a Federal issue, but then that plays into Obama’s hands. He can safely express an opinion on something that he acknowledges he cannot legislate on. He gets to make policy statements, split the Republican vote (ideally) without having to commit a cent of Federal budget.

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