Right wing talking point: the “Romney, Warren, Obama” position on marriage

If there was any doubt that the right would use President Obama’s unwillingness to come out in support of  marriage equality as a talking point, look no further than this clip from the Heritage Foundation.

After a blogger briefing, NOM’s Brian Brown was approached by Richard Manning, from Americans for Limited Government, where Manning raised the issue of Obama’s position on marriage. It’s a bit difficult to hear, but he says:

“You guys are in a unique situation, in that…the fact that the President still has the Rick Warren position of four years ago on marriage. So if they want to take down someone who opposes…diversity in marriage, they should really go after Obama…If I were putting up a website, I’d put him on as a prominent supporter.”

The exchange takes place in the last 50 seconds of the video here (and below).

First, let me be very clear: No one on the left is trying to take down Obama by talking about his position on marriage – I’m pointing out an on-the-record position and warning of what’s to come.

Second, you read that right –  the right wing is framing opposition to marriage equality as the “Romney-Warren-Obama” position. As Joe and John have said here countless times, this will come up during the campaign and in the debates. I just don’t see any way that Obama can effectively distinguish himself from Romney when asked about marriage – and at the same time, people on the left are going to be livid when they hear the President, in essence, agreeing with Mitt Romney and the NOM on stage during the debates. The very real strides made by the Obama administration on many LGBT issues, and his position on DOMA, will simply be overshadowed when it comes down to a question on whether we deserve to be able to get married.

Maybe that’s not fair, but it’s the reality.

This Romney-Warren-Obama position (particularly Warren, given how most Americans view him favorably) helps Romney paint himself as a moderate (though Romney’s utter abandonment of his openly-gay spokesman, in the face of religious right outrage, won’t help the serial flip-flopper win the middle). Further, I’d argue the President’s position hurts states that will have marriage on the ballot because it undercuts the story of a (very real) momentum we see in support for marriage equality when the leaders of both parties still see our relationships as undeserving of the same respect, rights and protections that come with marriage.  I just don’t see any way around this, and I don’t see a net gain in votes for Obama – just destroyed enthusiasm among young, LGBT and progressive voters.


Born and raised in Maine, Nick Seaver moved to DC to study political communication in 2003. He began writing extensively on LGBT rights during the first ballot initiative in Maine that overturned marriage equality. He writes about a variety of issues, ranging from marriage to issues facing LGBT youth. Follow him on Twitter at @NDSeaver.

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