March 1, 2011
By Lee-Anne Goodman
The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON - When President Barack Obama instructed the U.S. Justice Department to stop defending an anti-same-sex marriage law, some observers called it a stroke of political brilliance.
Polls suggest a growing number of Americans support same-sex marriage, after all, and Obama's move would force Republicans to defend the Bill Clinton-era legislation in court or risk angering their socially conservative base — all as a presidential election looms.
If that was Obama's gambit, it has apparently worked.
John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, said in an interview published Monday that his party will indeed take steps to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which faces legal challenges in several states, since the Obama adminstration says it won't. In the same breath, he griped that Obama was playing politics. . .
But one political observer says neither party has shone very brightly on the issue.
"The American public is quickly moving to the idea that this isn't worth any more of our mental effort; they're increasingly comfortable with gays and lesbians having a full slate of civil rights," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
"But the Obama administration is saying now that it won't defend DOMA in court, but it will continue to enforce the law, which is certainly a head-scratcher. And that limits the political mileage the Obama administration and Democrats can get from this issue."
Republicans, however, face an even bleaker situation.
"Republicans are in far worse shape because the public is moving away from them quickly on gay rights, and they're seen as being out of step and unnecessarily nasty. If they try to mount a congressional defence of DOMA, they'll just draw attention to the fact that they are out of step with the public."
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