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Is Obama's Gay Marriage Stand Incoherent?

Ramesh Ponnuru writes:

[Obama] says he opposes [same-sex marriage]. But he also thinks that a constitutional amendment in California to block it is "divisive and discriminatory." I think the only way to square these positions would be for Obama to say that he opposes same-sex marriage as a religious or moral matter, but supports it as public policy. He is, that is, "personally opposed." But I don't know whether Obama actually takes that position, or is simply muddled. (The other possibility, of course, is that I am wrong and there is some other way to make these views consistent.)

One possibility is that Obama opposes same-sex marriage as a matter of policy, but also thinks it would be unwise for Californians to amend their state constitution in order to prohibit it retroactively and nullify marriages that have already taken place (which could easily be construed as "divisive and discriminatory"). This isn't totally illogical: There are lots of people who dislike the rights conferred by, say, the Second or Fourth Amendments, but think as a matter of prudence it's a bad idea to amend constitutions frequently unless there's an exceptionally compelling reason to do so. Granted, it doesn't seem very likely this is what Obama believes (and this line of argument carries less weight in the context of the California constitution, which is amended all the time and is already a mess anyway), but his statements on the issue, while in tension, aren't necessarily irreoncilable.

--Josh Patashnik