I get the distinct feeling the White House hopes it can simply duck the marriage question straight through 2012, and I’d also bet dollars to doughnuts it won’t be able to. What became clear to me while interviewing attendees of the August 6 meeting was that while the friendly audience may have cut the administration some slack on legislative items like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Defense of Marriage Act, the one place advocates unapologetically stood their ground was on marriage equality.
Why? Because on that issue state activists have been the proverbial tip of the spear, if you will. They may not have a front-row seat to the maddening process of trying to chisel equality from the gut of an ossified federal government, but state-by-state they have shed blood, sweat, and tears for the recognition of their love and their families.
Make no mistake, this is an issue that the president’s chief advisers have misjudged from day one. They underestimated how angry people were that candidate Barack Obama wasn’t more vocal in his opposition to Proposition 8; they dismissed the devastation felt by millions of queers who poured their hearts into electing Obama only to watch Prop. 8 proponent Rick Warren give the invocation at the inauguration; they remained silent in 2009 as gay Mainers fought to preserve their right to love, marry, and build a life with their partner; and then David Axelrod reassured the nation two weeks ago that the president still opposes granting the freedom to marry to all Americans.
When Gibbs lampooned the professional left it was code for, “Oh, it’s just those coastal big-city liberals pushing their intemperate views in the media again.”
But that couldn’t be further from the truth on the issue of marriage equality after the sting of bigotry tromped from Florida to Maine to California and nearly every state in between. The president and his advisers may hope to stay below the radar on the question of marriage straight through 2012, but they are flying blind if they can’t see that activists across the nation are already seething.