Obama supports gay marriage while Romney speaks at anti-gay Liberty University

Mitt Romney, who was for gay rights before he was against them, finds himself wedged in a narrow, conservative corner, thanks to Obama’s strong endorsement for gay marriage as a fundamental human right. Photo: Mitt Romney was Liberty University's commencement speaker AP

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2012 — Gay marriage is an idea whose time has come. It is the civil rights issue of our day. One day gay marriages and all the rights attended with that concept will be the law of the land. And probably in our lifetimes.

When President Obama finally spoke up for the rights of gay couples to marry this past week, it was an historic moment. More importantly, it spoke to the hearts and souls of gay men and women in America, saying there is no they and we — we are all equal.

Did it take awhile for President Obama to arrive at that moment? Yes. Was he evolving, as he said, or did he actually devolve from his earlier support for gay marriage to now revolving back around to acting like a leader and not a politician? However Obama got there, he at least finally said the words: “I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” 

The same cannot be said for his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. At one time, Romney, when he was running for the Senate against Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, was a huge supporter of gay rights, including civil unions. But presidential candidate Romney has allowed himself to be boxed in by social conservatives, such as his earlier primary opponent Rick Santorum. However far Right Rick tilted in the primary, Mitt wasn’t far behind. And now Santorum is pushing hard for Romney to make gay rights an issue in the campaign.

President Obama tells ABC Robin Roberts he supports gay marriage AP

“I think what you see is his is a very potent weapon if you will for Gov. Romney if he is willing to step up and take advantage of a president who is very much out of touch with the values of America,” Santorum said in an interview with KARK-TV

“Hopefully Gov. Romney will continue to stand tall for his position on this issue and understanding for how detrimental this would be for society to have this changed,” Santorum added.

What Do Americans Think of Gay Marriage?

“In every state where there has been a race about same sex marriage, traditional marriage has won and won actually by pretty comfortable numbers,” he concluded.

Actually where states have voted for the referendum to outlaw gay marriage, it usually occurs during low turnout primaries such as North Carolina’s recent vote on Amendment One with only a third of the voters turning out and those voters tended to be older and more conservative than in general elections.

Poor Romney. He wants to talk about the “Economy, stupid,” but Santorum and his bullyboys have painted him into a narrow corner from which there is no escape.

Meanwhile, Americans in poll after poll show that they have too have evolved on the issue of gay marriage, moving from 27% in favor in 1996 to 50% in favor in 2012. 

So where did Romney find himself on Saturday? At Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., the notoriously anti-gay institution, giving the commencement address.

Just what is Liberty University? It’s a fundamentalist Christian college, founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell. You remember him. He’s the guy who blamed the death and destruction of 9/11 on gay and lesbians, along with abortionists and feminists, for bringing this fiery wrath on New York.

Liberty University Is Not Known for Its Tolerance

Pro-gay marriage protestors march to a N.C. city hall AP

Liberty U. is known for its virulent antipathy to gays, not admitting openly gay students and insisting at its ministries website that “God is clear when He says that it [homosexuality] is a sin or an abomination.” 

However, Liberty is open to holding conferences for ex-gays,  if you are looking for such a venue.

What did Romney have to say to these hard line evangelical students and their parents on gay marriage? A very succinct statement that received the only sustained appaluse heard during his speech, “Culture matters. As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate. So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”

He concentrated more on family values and how as a Mormon he is not unlike those he was addressing about seeking spiritual success. Actually it is a surprise Romney would go there to speak at all given the animosity Liberty holds for Mormons, whom it doesn’t consider Christian. In fact, student outrage was expressed in the college paper at Romney’s selection as the commencement speaker.

But like Senator John McCain before him in 2008, Romney obviously felt the need to genuflect before the high priests of social conservatism. That speaks volumes about both the man and the candidate.

The contrast between the Obama and Romney couldn’t be clearer. One man is for civil rights, and make no mistake about it, gay rights is a civil rights issue. People are born gay. They don’t turn gay one fine day. To deny gays the same rights as straight people who are born straight makes it a civil rights issue.

The other candidate doesn’t  — or won’t — understand the science of biology and supports denying gays the right to marry, speaking out against civil unions, something even President George W. Bush supported.

Will gay rights be a big issue in November 2012? It all depends on the base of each party. According to the Gallup Poll, 65% of Democrats and 57% of Independents support gay marriage while only 22% of Republicans do. So the question becomes will gay marriage energize the base to turn out and contribute money or is this a non-issue, given the enormity of our economic issues?

To some degree it will depend on Mitt Romney himself: if he decides that the only way to win is to take Santorum’s advice and gallop off with the Liberty University crowd, look for this to become a hot button issue that we will still be discussing come the fall.

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.


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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe

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