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What Obama (Really) Thinks About Maine Question 1

October 28th, 2009 No comments

Where does Obama stand on Maine’s ballot Question 1, which, if  passed, would reject the state’s marriage equality law before it ever takes effect? As we used to be told in high school social studies class, compare and contrast:

1. In response to a question from the Advocate about his view on the referenda in Maine and Oregon:

“The President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples, and as he said at the Human Rights Campaign dinner, he believes ‘strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away.’ Also at the dinner, he said he supports, ‘ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country.’”

2. Attorney General Eric Holder, replying to essentially the same question from a reporter after an event at the University of Maine:

“[The president and I] are of the view it is for states to make these decisions. That federal law [DOMA] is not necessarily a good piece of legislation, and we are going to work to repeal it….”

What th–?

When I read the first (and earlier) quote above, I did notice that the question had been answered with the circumspection and avoidance that too often characterizes (and results in caricature of) the legal profession:  Read carefully, the statement doesn’t take a position on Question 1, because it’s not clear that a right is being “taken away.” One might argue that this case is different from California, where marriage equality was in effect — gay and lesbian couples by the thousands had married — and then taken away. Under Maine law, same-sex couples’ right to marry wasn’t, in a sense, “complete” until the date for challenging the the new statute through the referendum process had expired. So is a “right” being taken away by a Yes on 1 vote? Yes and no.

Given Holder’s more recent statement, though, it’s clear that Obama’s avoidance reflects a willfully agnostic position on Question 1. In short:  he’s not with us on this, at least not in any way that’s useful. Is anyone surprised? If we lose by a point or two, I’ll know exactly where to place the blame.

That hate crimes uplift disappeared quickly, didn’t it?