Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gay marriage in DC, Marion Barry, and Ta-Nehisi Coates

The City Council of Washington, DC, has voted to recognize gay marriages performed in other states. I wasn't going to blog about this, despite the fact that I have lived in DC three times and I love it, because gay marriage news is coming out (pun intended) fast and furious these days, and I have to be somewhat selective. But Ta-Nehisi Coates has a great post about Marion Barry's vote in opposition. Fascinating comments. Several people pointed out the irony of a man caught on tape smoking crack trying to take some kind of moral high ground. Coates is relatively new to The Atlantic, but he's becoming one of my go-to bloggers, because he's a liberal who occasionally tries to slap some sense into liberals, particularly on civil rights issues. He's also the only blogger I read who can discourse extensively on the history of rap and hip-hop. Very refreshing.

I think the vote in DC may be a breakthrough in gay-black relations. I have my fingers crossed. The tension between African-Americans, particularly in churches, and gays has been a simmering source of tension. This will bring it out in the open (so to speak). One possible consequence may be that African-American gays and lesbians may be encouraged to come out of the closet, and force members of their community to confront their fears and issues around homosexuality.

It's also an opportunity for Obama to take a stand on this issue. He's been avoiding gay issues, which is understandable, given what else is on his plate. He is presumably a little reluctant to spend some political capital on this issue right now. There are a couple of reason for that. 1, he doesn't need to - incredible progress is being made without any help from him. If you had said two years - or even a year or even six months ago - that we would have gay marriage in almost all states in New England by the summer of 2009, I would not have believed you. If you had said that gay marriage would be legal in Iowa before California, I would have thot you were insane. So Obama doesn't really need to do much. 2, he doesn't gain much by spending political capital on gay rights issues. He would piss off conservatives, although that wouldn't make much of a difference. He might alienate a few people in the middle of the road, which would be bad. But it wouldn't make much of a difference with liberals and most out gays and lesbians, because they already support him. Not much reason for him to do anything.

Other than the fact that moving forward on repealing "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is the right thing to do. I expect Obama to be occasionally motivated by just doing the right thing.

This situation is just about ideal for Obama. He can make some kind of bland statement about how he supports expanding civil rights, and he hopes that Congress respects the District's rights to pass its own laws. He doesn't even have to support gay marriage outright. And then he can make it slightly personal about Marion Barry. Nothing big. Just make it clear that he doesn't agree with Marion Barry. Conservatives would love that. Judging by the comments in Coates' post, so would a fair number of African-Americans. Marion Barry is a demagogue and an embarrassment to everyone he is associated with. It is tragic that he is still on the DC City Council. Obama could score points with just about every point on the political spectrum just by shaking his head at the mention of the man's name.

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