In the midst of two horrible natural disasters whose human tolls keep climbing, two political firestorms ignited this week, ripping open two divisive issues that will be front and center as we move full steam to the election. Let’s take a quick look.
First, California made gay marriage legal
The news: On Thursday the California State Supreme Court overturned a ban on same-sex marriage, saying gays and lesbians have equal rights to marry, and likening bias against it to racial and gender discrimination.
Here’s the back story: In 1977, California passed a law (reaffirmed by voters in 2000) recognizing marriage as one between a man and a woman. In 2004, San Francisco’s mayor ignored that law, allowing gays marriages. About 4,000 couples married in March that year, in some cases waiting in line overnight for the opportunity, before the court halted the unions and later annulled them. Court cases have since challenged that ruling.
The politics: In 30 days gays and lesbians can begin marrying in California, unless opposition groups find a way to get the court’s decision put on hold. Conservative groups have already gathered over a million signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot that would ban gay marriage under the state constitution.
Second, doubts voiced over Obama
The news: Across the globe at Israel’s 60 birthday celebrations, President Bush told Parliament there that those willing to negotiate with “terrorists and radicals” were appeasing to the likes of Hitler and the Nazis. Democrats hit the roof, believing this was an attack on Barack Obama.
The background: In the past Obama has said he would consider meeting with the leaders of countries that the United States currently refuses to speak with—such as Iran.
The politics: The White House says these comments were not aimed at Obama but Republican contender John McCain told reporters on his “Straight Talk Express” bus that the remarks show Obama’s naiveté. Democrats rushed in to defend Obama, including rival Hillary Clinton. Obama called the comments “sad.”
The big picture
Circumstances dished up two controversial issues this week, one domestic and one foreign policy driven. Both are difficult and complex. Only Massachusetts has legalized gay marriage and about 20 states have passed constitutional amendments banning it. Meeting with Iran means meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is under international scrutiny for refusing to be transparent about his nuclear plans, and often makes inflammatory comments, this week saying Israel is a “dying nation.” He has previously said there are “no gays in Iran.” Of course any presidential candidate will have to deal with both. How they do, is crucial.