Waters: Americans have gay old time with same-sex marriage issue

U.S. should follow Canada's lead and legalize same sex marriage.

It’s an issue that won’t go away in the U.S.—same-sex marriage. Now that President Barack Obama has made his personal feelings on the subject clear—he supports it—Americans are in a tizzy about what it means when their country’s leader says he supports something so “controversial.”

Will it cost him votes in the upcoming presidential election? Will it sway those who contribute the huge amounts of money it takes to run a presidential campaign? Will he follow the lead of loose-lipped vice-president Joe Biden on any other politically incendiary subjects? (Biden came out in support of same-sex marriage the week before Obama did.)

That country’s leading news network, CNN, even had a special section on its webpage called Obama and Same-Sex Marriage, listing its latest stories about the issue. Yesterday it looked at how black Americans will react, the view of a top Republican who says same-sex marriage is not a civil rights issue and whether Obama will have more to say on the subject.

Granted, Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to endorse same-sex marriage but the furor it is raising down south is more than a little bewildering.

Here in Canada, we dealt with the issue—to the disgruntlement of the Conservative Party which was in opposition at the time—in 2005. Canada became the fourth country in the world to allow it. Since then, the Tories—by then the government—tried to have the matter reconsidered in Parliament and failed, with even some of their own MPs voting against the move.

Here, like that other bugaboo of U.S. politics, state-subsidized health care, the issue is a non-issue. As a result of Parliament’s move seven years ago, the institution of marriage did not crumble when same-sex couples were allowed to legally wed, heterosexual couples’ marriages were not impacted in any way and life went on.

Our neighbours to the south should once again take a page from Canada’s book and do the right thing and allow men and women to marry the men or women they love, regardless of sexual orientation. To do anything else is simply wrong. But in the U.S. it’s up to individual states to rule on marriage and while change is happening, it’s moving slowly.

Some feel its a moral issue, others feels its a rights issue. And they are both right. But marriage is also a civil issue—taxes, child support, benefits, pensions—and that’s where the state comes in.

If religious views preclude recognition of someone’s marriage, that’s up to the holder. But the state should not have that same it’s-OK-for-some-but-not-for-others prerogative.

Obama will find out in November if his personal view makes a difference to U.S. voters. But given that Americans are upset over other issues like health care reform and the U.S. economy, same-sex marriage may not be the deciding factor at the ballot box anyway.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News