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The President of Broken Promises

In National, Opinion on October 21, 2009 at 9:44 pm

The presidential campaign of President Barack Obama was loaded with inspirational speeches and promises. The campaign slogan, “Yes We Can” was a representation of Obama’s movement for change. Promises were made concerning health care, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, taxes, and gay rights. But how many of these promises could the president keep? Supporters of Obama argue that the promises made on the campaign trail will still come to fruition. But based on the president’s shrinking approval rating, which is currently at 53% (Gallup) those supporters are disappearing, and fast. With the recent events concerning gay rights it is obvious that President Obama will not be able to keep his promises. The real question is: did he ever mean to?


Flip Flopping on Gay Marriage


During the 2008 campaign President Obama stated that he in essence supported gay rights. He supported equal rights and full civil unions that were essentially the equivalent of a marriage, while not straying from his religious conviction that marriage is “between a man and a woman”. His voting record supported this ambiguous stance as well. President Obama voted against the so called Defense of Marriage Act during his term as a US Senator. During the same term he supported legislation that promoted equal rights among the gay community and worked against discrimination.


The President’s recent response, however, to the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act is an action that contradicts his statements. California has passed legislation that not only provides rights to civil unions usually reserved for marriages, such as the right to assist a partner in emergency, but also amends the definition of marriage to include same sex unions. The legislation neglects to include a clause similar to that of Massachusetts that prohibits same sex couples from other states from getting married within Massachusetts borders. The lack of such a clause will no doubt be far reaching as couples return from California to their home states and seek recognition of their marriage. Not only does this legislation affect other states in the projected increase of lawsuits enacted on the state government, but it also goes against the 2008 referendum vote in which the people of California voted against gay marriage.


The president’s response to this entire fiasco was his respect for the decision of the California Supreme Court. There is an argument in support of the sovereignty of states in these situations, but for a president who claimed to not support such actions to issue a supportive statement in favor of the California law is absurd. Especially because of the national repercussions of the lack of a clause limiting the marriages to residents, the president has a platform to oppose the California legislation. Yet he has decided to support it, despite what he promised on the campaign trail.


A question remains concerning the president’s motives. It could be that with the ever decreasing number of supporters, the president is attempting to gain favor by not “stepping on anyone’s toes”. But is this the right course of action given what he promised to stand for? Speculation states that his ambiguous voting record on the topic existed merely to provide the option of changing opinions if support fell. Regardless, a level of accountability is necessary, and so far President Obama has not been held to his promise to not support the legalization of gay marriage.


What this means for Obama’s other policies


If the president is not willing to keep his promises concerning gay rights, why should the public assume that he will stand by his other statements? Already, there are problems stemming from health insurance reform and tax cuts. The public outcry is demanding that there be an increase in employment and a stabilization of the economy, something that has yet to be seen. Perhaps the nation needs to wait longer to see the outcomes of the president’s actions, or perhaps to re-evaluate and adjust their expectations to better suit the new direction of the nation’s policies. Regardless gay rights can now be added to the list of promises the president has failed to follow through on.


by Casey Madden

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