On gay marriage, Obama will make a change you can believe in—in 2013

Walter Shapiro's Yahoo! News column examines how character collides with policymaking in Washington and in politics. Shapiro, who just finished covering his ninth presidential campaign, also is writing a book about his con-man great uncle who cheated Hitler.

“If there is one thing that we learned in 2008, it’s that nothing is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change.”  —Barack Obama on Saturday at his campaign kickoff rally in Columbus, Ohio

The next day, Joe Biden added his voice (more or less) to the millions calling for change in the laws that ban gay marriage. Then Monday morning, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a Chicagoan like the president, endorsed gay marriage during an MSNBC interview. Before the week is over, it is a safe bet that other prominent members of the Obama administration—when pressed by reporters—will join the chorus. That is how a social movement builds, one public conversion at a time.

In theory, it is possible for an accomplished grammarian—or a nervous Obama campaign operative—to parse Biden’s emotional remarks on “Meet the Press” about “love” and the “marriages of lesbians or gay men” and see nothing new. But such semantic gamesmanship does not explain why Biden felt compelled to confide to NBC viewers that he was so impressed after recently meeting the adopted children of a gay couple in Los Angeles that he told their parents, “I wish every American could see the look of love those kids had in their eyes for you guys.” Even though Biden never explicitly mouthed the four words “I support gay marriage,” the vice president’s position could not have been clearer than if he had presided over gay unions himself.

The president himself is not there yet. In fact, his public views keep evolving at roughly the pace of the Galapagos tortoises that Darwin studied. The only reference to gay rights in Obama’s new stump speech was embedded in this line: “We’re not returning to the days when you could be kicked out of the United States military just because of who you are or who you love.” But despite Obama’s current don’t-ask-don’t-tell equivocation on the subject of gay marriage (he opposes discrimination against gay couples), everyone can guess the evolutionary miracle that will occur as soon as the election is over. In 2013, either as a second-term president or as a private citizen beyond political ambition, Obama almost certainly will reinvent himself as a supporter of gay marriage.

Aside from his meetings with Republican members of Congress, Obama is almost always in rooms where the overwhelming majority of those present support legalizing gay marriage. A 2011 Gallup poll found that more than two-thirds of all Democrats take that position, while a recent Pew Research Center survey put the figure at just under 60 percent. When you factor in the elite educational pedigrees of the White House staff and the cultural liberalism of major Democratic donors in Hollywood and on Wall Street, Obama is completely out of step with his peer groups with his not-so-fast reluctance on gay marriage.

Obama is even lagging behind that trailblazing crusader, Dick Cheney. Much to the dismay of his 2008 liberal supporters, Obama has embraced the hawkish views of Cheney on targeted assassinations, the unchecked war-making powers of the president and the necessity to keep the prison at Guantanamo operating. But when it comes to echoing Cheney’s surprising support for gay marriage—that is a position currently far too extreme for an apostle of hope and change like Obama.

What is striking from the polling on gay marriage is how rapidly attitudes have changed from passionate opposition to puzzled equivocation to growing support. According to the polling from the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of all American voters opposed gay marriage in 2004. Now, just two presidential elections later, extending the institution of marriage to homosexual couples is supported by a margin of 47 percent to 43 percent. These days, in fact, Republicans are about the only political group still outraged by the specter of gay marriage: Forty percent of GOP voters describe themselves as “strongly opposed” compared to just 19 percent of independents and 14 percent of Democrats.

Even if North Carolina, as expected, votes Tuesday to add a ban on gay marriage to the state constitution, it should mostly be regarded as a symbol of rear-guard resistance. The wave of the future can be found in polling that reveals that more than two-thirds of all voters under 30 support gay marriage. Of course, the president’s campaign team appears to believe that coming out for gay marriage in the heat of a re-election campaign would distract from Obama’s inspirational political message: Mitt Romney’s worse.

If Obama dips into the latest volume of Robert Caro’s Lyndon Johnson biography, “The Passage of Power,” he may well pause when he reads LBJ’s reaction to the advisers who urged political caution about embracing civil rights on the verge of a presidential election. Johnson snapped, “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?”

A close reading of “The Passage of Power” reveals that Johnson always understood the importance of political timing. It would be easy for Obama to conclude that now is simply not the time to speak out clearly about gay marriage. But mealy-mouthed evasions and rhetorical obfuscation come at a cost—dampening the enthusiasm of supporters and frittering away the opportunities provided by the bully pulpit of the presidency. Obama is fooling no one with his endless evolutionary pondering of gay marriage. A brave president—election year or not--might follow the lead of Joe Biden and actually say what he thinks.

  • Future Shop stores closing, some converting to Best Buys, 1,500 jobs lost
    Future Shop stores closing, some converting to Best Buys, 1,500 jobs lost

    Future Shop stores across Canada are closing effective immediately, resulting in hundreds of full and part-time jobs being lost. Best Buy Canada, a subsidiary of Best Buy Co. Inc. that owns and operates both Best Buy and Future Shop stores, said in a statement Saturday that it will be closing 66 Future Shops for good, while 65 others will be converted into Best Buys. Brandon Buchanan, a former Future Shop employee in Toronto who worked in the mobile audio section in 2012, said he was shocked to hear the stores are closing. Stores in Toronto were locked and covered in paper with signs posted telling customers to shop at nearby Best Buy stores.

  • Woman Who Ate Frogs As A Child Has 10cm Parasite Removed From Head
    Woman Who Ate Frogs As A Child Has 10cm Parasite Removed From Head

    Some kids will put anything in their mouths when they're young, and in a lot of cases, there's no (serious) harm done. Tell that to Yin Men, however - she popped live frogs in her mouth as a youngster, and has paid a bizarre price as an adult.

  • Roger Moore Denies Racism Over Bond Comments
    Roger Moore Denies Racism Over Bond Comments

    James Bond actor Sir Roger Moore has been forced to deny accusations of racism because he said he wanted the next bond to be "English English". Some have interpreted his comments as suggesting that Sir Roger believes that Idris Elba, who has been widely touted as a candidate for the role, should not play the famous spy. Sir Roger said that the accusation of racism may have resulted from the true meaning of his comments being "lost in translation". Soon after his comments started appearing in UK newspapers, including the Daily Mail, Sir Roger tweeted: "An interview I gave to Paris Match implies I said something racist about Idris Elba.

  • The incredible true story behind the Toronto mystery tunnel
    The incredible true story behind the Toronto mystery tunnel

    Why Elton McDonald built the Toronto tunnel that captivated the world

  • Ex-girlfriend of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 co-pilot Andreas Lubitz speaks out
    Ex-girlfriend of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 co-pilot Andreas Lubitz speaks out

    The co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 who apparently chose to crash the jetliner into a mountain last Tuesday had vowed to "do something" that would make people remember him, his former girlfriend has told a German newspaper. The 26-year-old flight attendant, identified by the tabloid Bild as Mary W., was quoted as saying Andreas Lubitz, 27, had "burnout-syndrome" and she had been worried about his increasingly erratic behaviour.

  • Co-Pilot 'Hid Sick Note On Day Of Alps Crash'
    Co-Pilot 'Hid Sick Note On Day Of Alps Crash'

    Prosecutors investigating the Germanwings plane crash have said there were indications the co-pilot hid an existing illness from his employers. Andreas Lubitz is  accused of deliberately flying the aircraft into a mountainside  shortly after preventing the captain from re-entering the cockpit. Lubitz had a sick note for the day the Airbus A320 came down in the French Alps during a flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf but never told the airline, prosecutors said. The doctor's note, which would have prevented him from flying, was among several found torn-up during a search of his flat in Dusseldorf and it comes amid reports he was suffering from depression.

  • Crash pilot was psychiatric patient, planned big gesture - paper
    Crash pilot was psychiatric patient, planned big gesture - paper

    The Bild newspaper published an interview with a woman who said she had had a relationship in 2014 with Andreas Lubitz, the man French prosecutors believe locked himself alone in the cockpit of the Germanwings Airbus on Tuesday and steered it into the French Alps, killing all on board. "He did it because he realised that, due to his health problems, his big dream of working at Lufthansa, of a having job as a pilot, and as a pilot on long-distance flights, was nearly impossible." "He never talked much about his illness, only that he was in psychiatric treatment," she told the paper, adding they finally broke up because she was afraid of him. He became upset about the conditions we worked under: too little money, fear of losing the contract, too much pressure." A Lufthansa spokesman declined to comment. The company and its low-cost subsidiary Germanwings took out full-page advertisements in major German and French newspapers on Saturday, expressing "deepest mourning".

  • The chihuahua is the size of a Coke can and could be 'world's smallest dog'
    The chihuahua is the size of a Coke can and could be 'world's smallest dog'

    The minuscule mutt is just 2.75 inches tall and weighs 10.5oz

Follow Yahoo! News