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First reactions to President Obama’s newly announced approval of same-sex marriage


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The following commentary is part of a National Review Online Symposium, "The President Comes Out: What Now?"

First reactions to President Obama’s newly announced approval of same-sex marriage bespeak shaky mirror imaging. While folks on the right are routinely critical of its very core, they’re rejoicing in what they see as its politics. Folks on the left, meanwhile, while routinely celebrating the very heart of the president’s change of outward heart, don’t seem to be nearly as enthused (or even verbal) about its politics, fearful as many surely are that it will prove the opposite of helpful in November.

The latter dynamic may well manifest itself, and if I had to guess, it probably will—albeit not as consequentially as many Republicans and conservatives assume. A main reason is the great if generally unacknowledged rhetorical advantages proponents of same-sex marriage have over opponents.
Arguing compellingly against same-sex marriage is a complex and nuanced business, drawing on history, human nature, cultural coherence, and the well-being of children—and this last topic must be pursued without the aid of adequately persuasive research showing that growing up with same-sex parents is damaging. As for straightforward religious claims regarding the wrongness of same-sex marriage, by definition they are useless and worse on tens of millions.
Now take two things proponents can say in making their case.

“Hey, fair is fair.”
And when talking with married heterosexual couples: “Tell me again how gays and lesbians getting married will hurt your marriages?”
Unless politicians and others on the right come up with better, simpler answers to fundamental, one-sentence arguments such as these, they’re likely to be electorally disappointed, at least to a degree.