EXPERT CONTACT :
Jonathan Katz, PhD
Department of Visual Studies
University at Buffalo
Consistently, polls have shown an ever increasing percentage of Americans, especially younger Americans, are in favor of marriage equality for gay men and women.
That North Carolina elected to be on the wrong side of history once again is, sadly, a habit it needs to break. North Carolinians opposed civil rights for African Americans; they elected Jess Helms and kept putting him in office despite his hateful rhetoric against blacks and gays.
A governor of North Carolina will, in the not too distant future, have to hold a press conference to apologize for this vote. The habit to disenfranchise others runs deep there and has for centuries, and despite constitutional guarantees of equality, the state's voters continue to pick and choose who will be made "equal."
The President's statement in favor of marriage equality is a game changer. Active support for him among the left was at best lukewarm and this statement will revitalize the progressive movement at large; it's import goes far beyond the queer community, because he's finally shown some of that fighting spirit and principled commitment that made him a favorite during his campaign.
Obama's statement, then, is an olive branch to the left. And he needs us to win again, not just our votes, but our fervor, our door-to-door politicking, our grassroots savvy. We always knew he believed in marriage equality, but we weren't sure on which side his politicalcalculus would come down. It's great to see he's come out in favor of full equality.
EXPERT CONTACT :
Joshua Dyck, PhD
Associate Professor of Political Science
University at Buffalo
President Barack Obama's "evolving" position on gay marriage should be understood as a shrewd political move that carries a considerable, but calculated, risk.
The proceeding months will unveil how it pans out, but right now, President Obama and the Democrats are entering uncharted campaign territory.
Over the last 30 years, Republicans have used their positions on social issues to galvanize the electorate and mobilize their base. Obama's support for marriage equality signals that the President intends to make the 2012 campaign about more than the economy -- he intends to take the fight to the Republican party on the social issue front.
So far we have seen the Obama campaign characterize Romney and the Republicans as anti-immigrant and anti-woman and his affirmation of his support for gay marriage demonstrates that the President plans to hold Republicans accountable for positions on this issue as well.
With modest economic growth and some warning signals from the economy, the political environment in 2012 is, and will continue to be, extremely competitive.
In a close election, mobilization of core supporters becomes critical. While the President's evolving position on gay marriage has the potential to help conservatives mobilize voters, this move is clearly aimed at mobilizing many on the left who may feel less excited by Obama's promises of hope and change in 2012 than they were in 2008.
EXPERT CONTACT :
James A. Gardner
Vice Dean for Academic Affairs
University at Buffalo Law School
"After failed attempts to advance cutting-edge civil rights claims in the New York courts," says Gardner, "proponents of legally recognized gay marriage have achieved their goal the old-fashioned way: by convincing the state legislature to enact a law."
Gardner, the Joseph W. Belluck and Laura L. Aswad Professor of Civil Justice in UB's Law School and SUNY Distinguished Professor who is frequently quoted about Constitutional Law, elections and other judicial issues, says the gay marriage law passed recently took cues from the successful litigation strategy pursued in Hawaii, Massachusetts, California and Vermont.
"Advocates of gay marriage turned to the New York courts, where they sought a ruling under the state constitution that the reservation of official recognition of marriages to straight couples violated equality and civil rights guarantees," he says. "New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, rejected this claim, although proponents did achieve limited success when a lower court subsequently ruled that New York is constitutionally required to recognize gay marriages performed and officially recognized in other states. Disappointed in the courts, advocates of legal recognition mounted a legislative campaign that issued finally in the new legislation."
Gardner says people often mischaracterize the dispute over gay marriage as whether the law should permit gays and lesbians to marry. "In fact, to the extent that marriage is understood as a religious institution," Gardner says, "gays and lesbians are not and cannot be prohibited from marrying; their right to marry in private religious ceremonies is fully protected by the U.S. Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause."
Instead, he says, the issue is over the obligation of the state to extend the same recognition to privately performed gay marriages as it does to privately performed heterosexual marriages. This would extend to gays and lesbians the legal protections – and obligations – that attach upon official state recognition.
“The new legislation will thus have no legal impact on the availability of religiously consecrated gay marriages," Gardner says. "It will, however, now extend to gay marriages the many aspects of state law that have long regulated the marriage relationship in terms of property ownership and descent, tax liability, child-rearing, agency, insurance and pension coverage, and so forth.”