On Wednesday, May 9, 2012, President Barack Obama admitted, to the utter surprise of approximately three people in the entire United States, that "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married." Or rather, he hemmed and hawed for about 15 seconds before finally getting to the point of his "revelation," in a convoluted sentence that Thomas Fleming, writing for the London Daily Mail, characterized as "six degrees of subjectivity":
At a certain point, 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.
There's nothing quite like having the courage of your convictions.
The media, predictably, has referred to President Obama's statement as an endorsement of "marriage equality," which makes it sound like he has taken a stand against, say, laws prohibiting miscegenation. In reality, President Obama has endorsed the ongoing campaign to redefine the word marriage as something other than what it has meant for millennia in law, custom, and tradition: a union between a man and a woman with the primary purpose of procreation. Marriage law and customs reflect that historical meaning, designed as they are to emphasize and protect the connections between successive generations—a word that is itself pregnant with meaning, making the radical nature of this redefinition of marriage all the more clear.
In recent years, and even more so in recent months, surveys have shown that many Christians are willing to throw in the towel on the battle over the redefinition of marriage, so long as the redefinition applies only to marriage in secular law, and churches are left alone to maintain the historical definition of marriage. But President Obama quashed any hope that the battle will stop at the church door, when he argued that the "evolution" of his views on "same-sex marriage" stemmed from his (and his wife's) Christian beliefs:
This is something that, you know, we've talked about over the years and she, you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do. And that is that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.
I have personally made the argument that the Catholic Church should refuse to recognize secular marriage licenses and should insist, instead, that marriage, in the eyes of the Church, will be what the Church says it will be. I still think that such an approach may be necessary, but I realize now that giving up the political battle would be a mistake. (Whether that battle was lost already in the George W. Bush years, when the Bush administration allowed the federal courts to consider cases that may eventually overturn all state laws upholding the historical definition of marriage, is a different question. Sometimes losing battles still need to be fought.)
If, in the midst of a tough reelection cycle, President Obama is willing to attempt to redefine marriage, knowing that he will alienate a significant number of voters (after having already alienated many others over his contraception mandate), what would he be willing to do once he is reelected? It is by no means farfetched to think that his Justice Department, which has already attempted to tell Christians that the federal government has the authority to decide who counts as a minister in their churches, might pursue antidiscrimination lawsuits against Christian churches that refuse to perform "gay marriages.""When words lose their meaning, people lose their freedom." The saying is supposedly 2,500 years old, commonly ascribed (as so many such sayings are) to Confucius. In any case, the ancient origins of this saying make it all too clear that such battles never really end, and that freedom, too, is another word that long ago lost its meaning, to be replaced with licentiousness.