President Obama’s May 9 endorsement of same-sex marriage came as no surprise to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops. In response to the President’s announcement, Cardinal Dolan said that President Obama’s comments “follow upon various actions already taken by his Administration that erode or ignore the unique meaning of marriage.” He called the President’s support for same-sex marriage “deeply saddening” and vowed to continue to pray for the President to “act justly to uphold and protect marriage and by so doing serve the true good of all persons.”
President Obama had been under pressure from his base since taking office to take a more aggressive stance in support of same-sex marriage. Though Obama supported same-sex marriage in his 1996 run for Illinois state senator, he opposed it in his 2004 bid for U.S. Senator when he was up against Alan Keyes, a Catholic, Black, conservative. He also affirmed his support for traditional marriage in his 2008 bid for the presidency when he appeared in a television interview with Pastor Rick Warren, whom Obama would eventually invite to do the invocation at his inauguration.
Once in the White House, Obama has done much to support gay rights, hosting gay and lesbian events at the White House, striking down “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and publicly refusing to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act. On public support for same-sex marriage, though, he had stopped short and claimed that his position was “evolving”.
However, as of Wednesday, his position seems to have fully evolved with a little prodding from Vice-President, Joe Biden, who had endorsed same-sex marriage a few days earlier. While the White House has denied it, Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage appears to have been in response to criticism from same-sex marriage advocates who saw Biden’s comments as an opportunity to pressure the President into making a similar announcement.
The President’s endorsement came within hours of North Carolina becoming the 30th state to ban same-sex marriage in an overwhelming vote and in the strongest possible terms: a constitutional amendment. Despite the Biden incident, analysts are still scratching their heads as to Obama’s timing. However, some Catholics analysts see Obama’s appeal to Christ and the Golden Rule as the key to understanding his motives.
As his reason for the sudden support of same-sex marriage, Obama told the television interviewer: “...you know, we are both practicing Christians and...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…”
In other words, Obama’s reason is “What would Jesus do?” And some Catholic analysts are wondering if this isn’t Obama taking his fight with the U.S. bishops to the next level in order to further divorce the bishops from their flocks given that polls show growing Catholic support for the contraceptive mandate and same-sex marriage.