Federal Judge Vaughn Walker's landmark decision to overturn California's Proposition 8, a 2008 measure to ban same-sex marriage, creates a new political headache for President Barack Obama, Josh Gerstein writes in POLITICO a widely read website for political junkies.
Gerstein says "the decision also poses a formidable threat to President Barack Obama's strategy of relegating divisive social issues to the back burner."
"During the 2008 campaign, Obama took what many on both sides of the gay marriage viewed as a straddle," Gerstein continues. "He publicly announced his opposition to same-sex marriage, but he also said that he opposed the California ballot measure seeking to ban it, Proposition 8 - the same ban Walker ruled unconstitutional Wednesday.
"Obama explained the seeming contradiction at the time by saying that he opposes any measure singling out a group for adverse treatment by amending the U.S. Constitution or a state constitution, as Prop 8. did, even though legal experts said that was the only viable way to block gay marriage in California."
Gay activists, in the wake of Vaughn's decision, want Obama to move more aggressively to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
"His position on Prop. 8 has always been clear. What has not been clear is how he squares his position for equality with his refusal to embrace actual equality in marriage. That is unclear, increasingly unclear, and there's no good reason to explain it," Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry told Gerstein. "That's an unsatisfying position that does nothing but frustrate those of us who look to him as the champion he promised to be. ... He's not gaining anything, and Judge Walker just made that crystal clear."
But those on the right are not happy with Obama's straddle either.
"He's got to show his cards," Gerstein quoted Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage. "Do you support one San Francisco judge in imposing his view of marriage on the rest of the country or not?... Anyone who just looks at this from an objective point of view realizes the president's position is untenable."
The White House issued a brief statement on the ruling that was noncommittal on Walker's ruling: "The president has spoken out in opposition to Proposition 8 because it is divisive and discriminatory. He will continue to promote equality for LGBT Americans," spokesman Ben LaBolt said.
The official statement didn't reiterate Obama's opposition to gay marriage but a spokesman said his position on that issue was unchanged. The full Gerstein article can be found here.
PHOTO CREDIT: President Barack Obama speaks about Iraq and Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 2, 2010, at the Disabled American Veterans national convention in Atlanta. AP Photo/ Charles Dharapak.