A Philosopher's Blog

Obama & Same Sex Marriage

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on May 11, 2012

Official photographic portrait of US President...

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.

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16 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on May 11, 2012 at 7:35 am

    “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.”

    Just so. I just hope you remember those “classic conservative values” when it comes to economic liberties 🙂

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 11, 2012 at 9:53 am

      I do-the state’s proper role in restricting liberty is to prevent unwarranted harm. As such, regulation of business should be limited to that. I’m no fan of needless bureaucracy that merely makes things harder for people to earn a living.

    • anon said, on May 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      The same “classic conservative values” that are trying to ban gay marriage?

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 11, 2012 at 11:50 pm

        I, for one, am glad that Obama has evolved in his thinking to the point that he now agrees with Dick Cheney on the issue of gay marriage.

        • dhammett said, on May 12, 2012 at 9:37 am

          I’m not certain what the point of your comment is, but I have a few questions.

          Did you respect Cheney any more or any less as an individual or as leader for his views on homosexuality? Did you consider him a heathen? A politician trying to make points? A father who loves his daughter but believes his daughter chose to be a lesbian? A father who loves his daughter but believes homosexuality is no more a matter of choice than heterosexuality? Would you allow Cheney’s views on gay marriage to change your views of Dick Cheney as a leader.?

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm

          Dick Cheney did lead the way on this.

  2. Nick said, on May 11, 2012 at 7:37 am

    “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.”

    I think you are right to point out that conservatism has rational grounds for supporting same-sex marriage, but I am less optimistic concerning your expectation of humans to be as rational and impartial about this topic. Many conservatives demonstrate classic yuk factor disapproval, out-group hostility, and unwarranted fear towards the homosexual community and those who work to improve their legal rights. These behaviors are not what you would expect from people who are being cool-headed and reasonable. So while their professed political philosophy should support the idea, their primitive mammalian prejudices are getting in the way.

  3. urbannight said, on May 11, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Reblogged this on Urbannight's Blog and commented:
    Great point made and you have to love the SWTOR reference as well.

  4. magus71 said, on May 11, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Obama’s clawing for a topic in order to maintain relevancy for the upcoming election.

    • dhammett said, on May 12, 2012 at 9:40 am

      Forgive me. It’s Saturday morning and I’m still a little groggy. Is this talking point #1,385 or talking point #8155?

  5. Thomas said, on May 14, 2012 at 1:30 am

    From NC here. You might have a point about Obama losing NC for this election. I hardly heard a peep over the airwaves from the people from the hetero amendment, but on the other hand there were people shouting from rooftops against the amendment. And in the face of all of the opposition and propaganda, the amendment still passed. The amendment also did not only pass by a few votes; it passed by about 500,000 votes. That should be a pretty scary stat for Obama since he only won NC in the 2008 election by about 14,000 votes.
    I did not get a chance to vote by the way, but I did keeps tabs on the topic out of interest.

  6. ajmacdonaldjr said, on May 14, 2012 at 7:01 am

    You seem to make no distinction between “liberty” and “license”

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

      I do. Going with Locke, I would take license to be allowing people to go beyond what they should (Locke says the state of nature is a state of liberty but not license). Allowing same sex marriage does not harm me or anyone else in life, liberty or property and hence we would seem to have no moral right to impose a restriction on the liberty of consenting adults to engage in legal contracts.

      As I note in my book (which is free this week on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/For-Better-Worse-Reasoning-ebook/dp/B0082FVY9Q/ref=sr_1_15?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1337023393&sr=1-15), I am in favor of dividing marriage into three types: legal, religious and love. This would allow churches to maintain their doctrines without imposing on the liberty of others.

  7. D said, on May 14, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Actually I thought the article headline said Obama spoke out AGAINST gay marriage, which is why I was disappointed. I thought Obama caved in to right wing pressure. I guess that’s my own fault for trying to read the news at the same time as saving the galaxy from evil droids. Obama’s still my Jedi Master.

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