Sunday, June 03, 2007

Obama on Gay Marriage and Self-Doubt

Barack Obama made an interesting statement in his book The Audacity of Hope:
It is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided, just as I cannot claim infallibility in my support of abortion rights. I must admit that I may have been infected with society's prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God; that Jesus' call to love one another might demand a different conclusion; and that in years hence I might be seen on the wrong side of history.


It reveals a man with a healthy dose of skepticism about his own beliefs but perhaps lacking the courage to take the step he knows he should. Is that better or worse than someone who is sure gay marriage is wrong and always will be?

Right now I'm going with better, since he at least has the courage to ask the question. I'd prefer a president who makes mistakes with the understanding that he is fallible to one who makes mistakes with 100% certainty. Presidents can't publicly precede the people to the right conclusion on every issue, but Obama has at least done so on one major issue: the Iraq war. If he merely rides the public wave of support for gay rights as it continues to grow, it's at least better than most of his rivals can be trusted to do.

Obama does, for the record, support laws against discrimination and for civil unions. He must also have an innate sense that the public can be wrong about questions of civil rights and marriage -- his black father and white mother were married in 1960, when miscegenation was illegal in half the states in America.

13 comments:

beepbeepitsme said...

I think it is a positive sign also.

People who believe that their assessment of any topic is infallible or inerrant - bother me a great deal.

It smacks of fanaticism, and goodness knows, there are enough fanatics of all stripes to go around already.

Perhaps people confuse fanaticism with strength? I dunno.

Zaftig & Shaifele said...

So, who shall we vote for?!

Ezzie said...

I think it's a positive thing to say that "I could be wrong", but it's a weird pair of issues to feel that way on: Two issues which are generally viewed as moral issues, rather than issues of economics or the like. It's hard to be proven "right" or "wrong", and it's strange to note that future history may place him on the 'wrong' side of this; these are issues where it should be a matter of Yes or No - Is this Right? Either abortion is right, it's wrong, or it's right only in certain situations. Either you feel gay marriage is right or wrong. (Unless he's saying that gay marriage may be fine, just the act is wrong, but I don't think that's implied... and I'm assuming that the basic interpretation of the sentence is understood the same by Christians as Orthodox Jews, which I may be wrong on.)

Side note: I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone that supports discrimination against gays.

beepbeepitsme said...

ezzie

Sadly I have spoken to christians who would have no problem with homosexuals being stoned to death. The more literal readers of the bible are more likely to accept this as the word of god.

Obviously there are also muslims who believe that stoning homosexuals to death is the word and wishes of allah.

And weren't there violent protests in Israel recently concerning the Gay Pride Parade?

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/115170

Jewish Atheist said...

Side note: I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone that supports discrimination against gays.

Wow. Really?

http://www.afa.net/enda043007.htm

There are tons of people and organizations explicitly opposed to, for example, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, even though it contains exemptions for religious organizations.

Nephtuli said...

JA,

Opposing the ENDA is not necessarily evidence that someone supports discrimination against gays. There are a number of morally neutral reasons to oppose legislation that infringes on people's private decisions.

Ezzie,

Lots of people support discrimination against gays. It just depends in what cases. You'd have a hard time finding an Orthodox Shul that would appoint a gay rabbi for example.

intheworldagain said...

JA - I've only been reading your blog for a short time, but I'm very impressed with your grasp of so many important issues. Your views seem unbiased, like you are really looking at issues in a non-judgmental way. Perhaps having come from a culture that can have very narrow view points you have learned how NOT to do that. I'm enjoying your blog very much and look forward to reading the archives and future posts.

Jewish Atheist said...

intheworldagain,

What a great compliment! Thanks. :-)

Jewish Atheist said...

Nephtuli:

Opposing the ENDA is not necessarily evidence that someone supports discrimination against gays. There are a number of morally neutral reasons to oppose legislation that infringes on people's private decisions.

This is technically true, of course, but I doubt so many groups would be equally opposed to laws forbidding discrimination against religious people, for example.

Nephtuli said...

This is technically true, of course, but I doubt so many groups would be equally opposed to laws forbidding discrimination against religious people, for example.

True, but that could simply be a question of whose ox is being gored and not necessarily support for discrimination against gays.

beepbeepitsme said...

RE: "ENDA would make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote an employee based on his or her sexual orientation or "gender identity."

We already have that here. A person can't refuse to hire someone or to fire someone based on their sexual orientation.

In other words, it is illegal to discriminate agiants people based on their sexual orientation.

However, this has not stopped John Howard from redefining what "marriage" is, in order to shut the doors to gay marriage.

But then, he believes that he has the right to make his religious beliefs the law for everyone else.

Ezzie said...

Nephtuli - I understand discrimination differently. I think it would make sense for a religious institution to not have a gay person at its helm, assuming they believed homosexuality was wrong. That's not discrimination as simply he not being the example you want.

Keebo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.