May 12, 2012, 4:43 pm
New York Times
In a historic interview last week, President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage. As he discussed his journey toward that position, the president sounded many familiar themes, like the importance of distinguishing between civil and religious marriage and of living up to American ideals of fairness. At the core of his narrative, however, was a relatively novel element — an affirmation of gay couples as parents.
The president repeatedly attributed his “evolution” to his contact not only with gay couples but also with their children. He described thinking about staff members “who are incredibly committed, in monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together.” He discussed meeting same-sex couples and seeing “how caring they are, how much love they have in their hearts — how they’re taking care of their kids.”
Later in the interview, he wondered whether opponents of same-sex marriage had “had the experience that I have had in seeing same-sex couples who are as committed, as monogamous, as responsible — as loving a group of parents as any heterosexual couple that I know. And in some cases, more so.” Indeed, except for his marquee declaration that “same-sex couples should be able to get married,” the president never spoke of “gay and lesbian couples” or “same-sex couples” without alluding to the children of those couples.
The president’s invocation of children as a reason to support same-sex marriage is striking. His position may be controversial among some gay individuals, who, like some straight individuals, do not want their right to marry to be linked in any way to procreation. Yet a strong justification for the president’s stance can be found in the argument it implicitly seeks to rebut. Traditionally, the well-being of children has appeared squarely on the other side of the ledger, functioning as the prime secular argument against same-sex marriage.