- a political calculation that he will gain more votes than he will lose by taking this position
- one of the only progressive things he can do since he doesn't control the Senate or Congress
- made necessary because Joe Biden said it first
- a genuine stand for the civil rights of same sex partners
- all of the above?
I expect that it is all of the above, and more reasons we don't know.
And does it matter?
Before the same sex marriage fight in Canada, people thought that same sex marriage was just a matter of opinion. After we won the marriage cases, forcing the federal government to amend the Marriage Act to permit same sex marriage, Canadians understand that marriage is a Charter-protected civil right. And that has made a huge difference to the general acceptance of queers in this country.
The right is right: gay marriage does change the nature of marriage, because marriage is not exclusive any more. And that is a good thing. It moves us closer to the day when everyone - whether married, common law, or "single" - can have the social benefits which started out available only to married heterosexuals. Such benefits include everything from pension benefits to preferential tax treatment to 'family' discounts. Fully a quarter of the laws of BC affect one's rights as a member of a couple or a family.
I spoke to some queers in the U.S. yesterday about Obama's announcement, and they said that it has had a galvanizing effect on queers there, who are feeling energized and proud about Obama's statement. All the best to our US queer friends and allies in this fight!