The issue of same-sex marriage became a US election focus in 2012 giving the radical opposite views of both candidates. Barack Obama , who won the elections for a second term, showed a great support for the issue, along with his wife, Michelle, his vice Joe Biden and the rest of the democrats cabinet. During the 2008 election campaigns, Obama opposed same-sex marriage, meanwhile, opposed constitutional ban. Yet, he showed a great support for civil unions, an equivalent union of marriage, arguing that: ”same-sex couples should have equal legal rights and privileges as married couples, including the right to assist their loved ones in times of emergency as well as equal health insurance, employment benefits, and property and adoption rights”. He, thus, accorded gay couples with all the legal rights married couples had, but not marriage. In an interview in 2008, Obama revealed that he will “continue to support civil unions that provide all the benefits that are available for a legally sanctioned marriage; it is then up to religious and nominations to make a determination to whether they want to recognise gay marriage or not”. Four years later in May 2012, Obama announced publically that he supports same sex marriage and, once winning elections, will grant full legalisation for same sex couples to get married.
Gambling with the results and betting that his evolutionary decision will attract more younger voters , though he knew that loosing conservative votes was inevitable, he publically announced: “It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married”. He further argued that as a president, he has to make sure that all rights are represented equally and just like normal couples, gay ones have the right to live together and have a life. He further added that he revised his agenda and sees that it is his duty to support this category with equal, but not special grants than heterosexual couples. This made Obama the first American president to support the marriage of same sex couples. “Don’t ask Don’t Tell” is a US policy concerning homosexuals serving in the US military; the policy “prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service” . Since 2011, Obama has been supporting the repeal of the policy. His Vice, Biden has been a strong supporter of gay rights, revealing that he is: “absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marry men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights and all the civil liberties”.
Hilary Clinton, likewise, opposed same-sex marriage when running for the presidency in 2008; however, she seems to become a great supporter for LGBT issues in supporting civil unions, opposing “Don’t ask don’t tell” and every constitutional amendment to ban homosexual marriage. Likely, Democrats argue: “We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. “We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference” .
Mitt Romney along with his wife, Ann Lois Romney, his vice Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republican cabinet showed a great opposition to the marriage of same-sex couples. Romney has long stood in the same position: he always argued that marriage is a union between “one man and one woman”. Romney’s traditional perceptions stem from a social conservatism view. Social Constructivism is a political ideology concerned with preserving traditional values in society. This varies among groups; however, general similarities are promoted between conservatives. For instance, preserving family values, referred to as Abrahamist values; tracing back to the monotheistic faiths which are linked to Abraham, and opposing sexual permissiveness. Social conservatism endorses morality and defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. They, therefore, oppose same-sex marriage and support a constitutional ban. They also oppose prostitution, polygamy, civil unions, gay adoptions, same-sex parenting, birth control and promotes gender role in society. Many arguments for marriage focus on it as a moral, natural, pre-political social institution intrinsically connected to the vital public interest in the begetting and raising of children and natural law. According to David Blankenhorn, “marriage’s single most fundamental idea is that every child needs a mother and a father; changing marriage to accommodate same-sex couples would nullify this principle in culture and in law”. Accordingly, Romney strongly feels that gay marriage: “would destroy the culture of America, damage the children and the entire education system”. He personally believes that: “Americans should be respectful of all people regardless their sexual orientation, but the institution of marriage should be upheld”.
He neither supports same sex marriage nor civil unions, but supports the Federal Marriage Amendment which would have modified the US constitution, prohibiting same sex marriage. He argued that he “believes that the federal amendment in the constitution must define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman because the ideal place to raise a child is in a house with a mom and a dad”. He, however, supports legal unions, “Don’t Ask don’t tell” and he is against the repeal, supports Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to ban anti-gay employer discrimination. He favoured a federal amendment to the constitution banning gay marriage and supports domestic partnerships: “My view is the domestic partnership benefits hospital visitation rights and the like appropriate but that the others are not”, said in a press conference in 2012 .The rest of his allies from republicans, including his wife and his vice Ryan, are extremely conservative and do only recognise marriage as a union between “one man and one woman”.
Throughout the electoral campaign, both candidates aimed to attract as much voters as possible. However, interestingly, the issue of same-sex marriage was not brought up during the presidential debates although Maryland was on the ballot; it was neglected over the three meetings along with other issues of abortion, war on drugs and climate change. This is believed to be a tactic to limit public’s focus on significant issues such as the economy, foreign policy, health… etc while avoiding controversial ones which may affect the voting. Negative campaigning, coming from both sides, was present as each candidate tried to win advantages by referring to negative aspects of the other opponent. This can be seen, for instance, during the presidential debates when Romney highlighted all the negative outcomes of Obama’s presidency such as in the economy, healthcare, foreign policy, same-sex marriage.. etc. Obama, on the other hand, always referred to Romney’s social background for not being part of the working class, unlike the majority of Americans. Campaign ads played an important role; experts believe that this campaign has been the most negative in recent memory of the United States, spurred largely by the huge amounts of unrestrained cash flowing into the coffers of outside groups like Super Pacs. “There is so much money and therefore the quantity of negative ads is so much more than we have ever seen. They know it is far more effective to tear someone down than build somebody up” said Professor David Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Akron in Ohio. A large coalition of donors in support of same-sex marriage, including casino giant MGM, Delta Airlines and private donations, gathered nearly $6 million Maryland. On the other hand, opposition are doing the same, for instance in Maine, the national organisation for marriage donated $1.9 million to a political action committee in order to help repeal Maine’s same sex marriage law.
Mitt Romney accused Obama of doing anything to stay in power referring to the series of negative ads the Obama campaign launched. In an interview with the CBS, Romney said the attacks launched by the Obama team and Obama supporting Super Pac Group are dividing the country; “If you look at the ads that have been described and the divisiveness based upon income, age, ethnicity and so forth, it’s designed to bring a sense of enmity and jealously and anger”. He further added: “These personal attacks, I think, just diminish the White House that much more”. For example, the Super Pac Priorities USA Action produced a controversial ad which was highly criticised for featuring a man whose wife died of cancer after losing her health insurance when his factory was closed by Romney’s former firm Bain Capital. In same-sex marriage, Super Pacs were also present ; for instance, Obama pro-gay policy was greatly supported by “ Silicon Valley” Pac and the American Unity Pac , referred to as the Pro-Gay Republican Pac, announced its support for gay marriage by providing at least $2.25 million and including Republican gay couples in their group. Anti-gay marriage Super Pac to support Romney’s conservative views, “Restore our Future” was the main supporter of Romney in Minnesota and New Mexico. Another backer, “The Campaign for American Values” launched an ad warning viewers that “Obama is trying to enforce gay marriage on the country”. Obama supporters criticised Romney of trying to mislead Americans about the liberal values Obama tries to endorse. However, a documentary on same-sex marriage in Massachusetts reveals the opposite. Obama claims that religious freedoms and thoughts will be preserved as well as freedoms of same-sex couples; kinder gardens and primary schools in Massachusetts started to indoctrinate children with the normality of homosexuality by introducing the idea of same-sex couples in diversity books, without parental notification. Parents reveal that administrators argued that same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts; therefore, they can broach it anytime with the children. One of these election gaffes was associated with Mitt Romney. In “Meet the candidate”, Romney was asked about his feeling if one of his grandchildren are to be gay. Supporters criticised Romney for being selfish and controversial as he responded “I love my grandchildren, and of course I’d want them to be happy. My view is this: individuals should be able to pursue a relationship of love and respect and raise a family as they would choose”. Yet, he added that he would want marriage to continue to be associated with one man and one woman.
Besides, battleground states, often referred to as swing states, were a crucial target for both candidates. The winner-take all system entitled both to focus on a set of states although more than 100 million American voted. In such states, over half voters voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage. For instance, 54% in Florida and 52% in Ohio believe it should be legalised. About 50% voted in favour in Virginia, Maryland (The Maryland same-sex marriage referendum-Question 6), Maine and Washington DC. On the 20th of September 2012, the senate voted down on the same-sex marriage bill. This 112 congress has witnessed a dramatic decline in the support of LGBT rights and this was calculated with a decrease from 50.4% to 40% compared to the 111th congress. Out of 435 house members and 100 Senator, 115 members of the house and 22 of the senate support same-sex marriage are democrats, the rest opposition is republican. Interestingly in Wisconsin, a first ever gay US senator was elected, Tammy Baldwin after spending $65 million on her campaign.
Public Views on same-sex marriage in the 2012 Elections/ state
Giving its significant rise and interconnectedness with every socio-political issue, social media played an important role in this election. Candidates were very active in social media, using twitter and Facebook to attract more voters. The twitter team, in response, launched the Twitter Political Index, which aimed to measure feelings of the users towards both candidates and where they stand on different issues. According to the flowing figure, the public seems to become more tolerant regarding the issue of same sex marriage as positive responses were both relevant in blogs and twitter.
Public views concerning the legalisation of same-sex marriage seem to become more positive compared previous years. With this newer generation, same-sex couples are having a great faith that their cause will be legalised and spread across the entire United States in the future. The younger generation is the one pushing the LGBT cause further under the veils of democracy, human rights, equality, humanity and non-discrimination. A focus on US polls reveals that the public seems to be more supportive to the legalisation of homosexual marriage with every running pole. The 2012 elections reveal that the American public is divided between two crucial positions; either support (50%) or oppose (48%). The following graph and tables reveal an apparent “clash” between generations (Gallup: 2012):