Saturday, May 12, 2012

Checkmate: Same-Sex Marriage Advocates Now in the Game

Many are debating the moral and social obligations of the Black church in the wake of President Obama’s recent endorsement of same-sex marriage.  The details of what should be the appropriate reaction of the media-crafted monolithic “Black-church vote” are being hotly debated, and well they should be; this is good political discourse.  However the limited focus of these debates seems to ignore a much larger picture.

Many wonder about the timing of this announcement.  Some have pointed out that it was all too conveniently issued on the eve of Obama’s $40,000 per plate re-election fundraiser among the super rich who might favor such a move.

I believe this timing touches on the fringes of the picture we see, yet to gain better perspective we must first reflect on the 2008 election.  In the months following Barack Obama’s announcement of his candidacy, Hillary Clinton – with the anointing of the Democratic establishment – was well on her way to being “in it to win it.”

Then we saw a great reversal at the Iowa caucuses, transforming Obama from a Black candidate driven by politics to a mainstream candidate driven by a movement.  This caused a convergence of multitude paradigm-shifting factors, resulting in a tipping point.  Even African American Democrats who favored Hilary experienced this paradigm shift – a shift that was completed with the South Carolina primary.  The rest is history.

A cultural movement will always trump politics when they go head to head; this is culture vs. politics.  The “marriage equality” advocates seem to have learned this lesson, but those who advocate for traditional marriage are, like a needle on a record, stuck in the groove of an ineffectual political approach.

With Obama’s recent endorsement as we approach the 2012 election, it seems that the order of the day will be politics vs. politics.  This time, there is no euphoric movement on the horizon. In this light we can understand Obama’s pronouncement as a matter of political calculation. 

I am mystified by the shocked reactions emerging from various quarters, since as early as 1996 Barack Obama is documented as stating, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”  As the dates add up, his talk of “evolving” now seems a ruse.

Without a movement to ride, perhaps Obama felt the need to assemble a winning coalition.  He took for granted the Black vote, in spite of their traditional opposition to same-sex marriage.  Given the alternatives, perhaps he reasoned that Black folks would “get over it” and still choose him. After all, why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?   Likewise, he counts on the liberal/left vote.  It seems to me that this well-timed endorsement of same-sex marriage was aimed at shoring up the enthusiastic support of the LGBT community, with its considerable wealth and clout – a community that was beginning to show signs of antipathy towards him.

In my perspective, same-sex marriage is not the ultimate issue.  What disturbs me more is that today’s politicians and judicial activists presume that they can redefine stabilizing institutions that have survived for millennia merely for the sake of short-term gain.  Their hubris is rooted in the notion that they are wiser than all the generations that have preceded us.  It is this calculated approach that will “fundamentally transform” this nation from a government of laws into a government of men.  In such a society, power is applied according to the impulses of flawed leadership.  The winds may blow in your favor today, but tomorrow they may tragically reverse, with no recourse.

If our institutions can be redefined at whim for political gain, it makes us all – Black, White, gay, straight, liberal, conservative, or what have you – into pawns in a game in which there are no rules.

You wanted equality, same-sex advocates?  Congratulations.  You are now a vulnerable piece on the chessboard – just like the rest of us.

Dr. Carl Ellis, Jr. is a theological anthropologist and Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, TX.  Follow Dr. Ellis on Twitter: @CarlEllisJr


  1. Excellent article Carl. Thanks for that perspective. It is one that we will not hear from the mainstream media.
    God bless you.

  2. Nicely written, Carl. We need you here at the New York Divinity School!

  3. Very thoughtful commentary. Thanks for writing and posting this.

  4. Thoughtful and articulated very, very well. We would love you insight concerning the two articles below:

  5. Well stated Carl. This gives me hope for a brighter future America

  6. You hit the nail on the head! Not only is there the notion that they can redefine such institutions, but that this short term gain will actually provide a permanent improvement. Further, whenever we stake our identity on one aspect of our humanity (whether our sexuality or race) we have reduced our identity to one dimension of our humanity. That is dehumanization. The Civil Rights Movement was in part to announce that black people were more than their race. Why all of the sudden now do we want to reduce our identity to our sexual orientation? Thank you Carl for stirring our minds and hearts.