I sometimes wonder if two sides of an issue can both be correct. The recent decision by President Obama not to sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to avoid discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual identity is a case in point.
Political realities often do not align neatly with moral imperatives. Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent accuses the Obama administration of playing it “too cute” with gay rights issues. But the political reality is that,in an election year in which similar issues for the gay community have been showcased repeatedly, Obama is playing his hand with all the cunning of a dispassionate poker player. If his strategy wins, that will be the bottom line.
What is that strategy? As a lay person, I can only speculate. But consider that within the past few months, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has gone so far as to say he would effectively annul same sex marriages and reinstitute Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the military. Through constitutional amendment and executive decree, the former candidate would have rolled back rights that currently exist already for these Americans. Santorum’s views come from his own sense of morals and religious doctrine; despite his proclaimed alignment with the essential Republican principle of less intrusion in our private lives by the federal government, the moral scaffolding he promotes would override state choices in the matter of marriage. On a more fundamental level, however, his suggestions smack of proclamation.
Obama knows that. He’s not playing it cute – he’s playing it cool. Perhaps he knows that the fundamental strength in promoting social rights lies with congressional approval rather than executive order. Yet I still applaud those who cry out against the existing injustice, urging him to take more decisive action, because therein lies the passion.
For those of us who are members of the gay community, the tension between the two sides perhaps creates a synergy propelling this from a political wish to an accomplished reality.
Photo by: ep_jhu