Letter to the President 7/20/11: On Gay Marriage

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500

July 20, 2011

President Obama,

Earlier today you announced that you were endorsing a bill to end the hilariously-named Defense of Marriage Act.  That is good.  I appreciate that.  I’m in favor of gay marriage; in fact I’m in favor of whatever marriage people want.  Even the hyperbolic worst case scenarios people throw around.  So what if man-dog marriage becomes legal?  How does that possibly affect me enough to be worth spending my precious little free time to fight?  It’s just not enough of anyone’s business to waste resources on.

But I digress.

You’ve said before that you oppose gay marriage, I don’t know if that’s the truth or a political position and it doesn’t matter which is true.  If that’s your real opinion you have the right to be wrong.  But it’s also clear from your recent statements that you’re in favor of getting rid of these ridiculous laws against doing anything while gay and that’s what matters.

I understand why you’ve been so hesitant to do anything about this.  It’s a touchy political subject in an election year, and while nobody who hates gay people is going to vote for a non-white Democrat I can understand being cautious.  However you’re looking at this all wrong.  This is an opportunity.

The modern Republican party has two contradictory central positions: They believe in small government and a lack of intrusion into personal lives, and they believe in increasing the power of government to legislate people’s personal lives and prohibit sin.  Gay marriage more than any other issue is the intersection between these, the point of central conflict.  Half the party would give more weight to the small government side and the other to the legislated morality side.

In short, you can tear the Republican party in half with this and force them to choose their path between those two.

The trick, as I see it, is how you frame it.  Appealing to people’s sense of fairness, empathy and basic humanity probably won’t do it, historically speaking.  So frame this as a states’ rights issue.  A tenth amendment situation.  Marriage is not a power delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor is it prohibited to the States, so it’s reserved to the States.  To refuse to honor a state’s marriage license is a subversion of their rights under the tenth amendment.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to destroy the Republican party.  A two-party system is crucial and balance is key to a fair government.  The sad fact, however, is that they’re broken, due in part to the two contradictory positions and in part to the fringes dominating the direction.  Forcing them to focus on one set of principles and forcing the party’s extremists to self-segregate will give the party as a whole more credibility in the future, hopefully attracting more moderate voters to primaries and in the end electing more sensible, less hard-line members of Congress.  Then the entire nation wins.

Plus a good internal conflict wouldn’t hurt your prospects of reelection.  And, you know, it would go a long way toward ending our nation’s embarrassing institutional discrimination against millions upon millions of our countrymen.



Daniel J. Willis

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