Op-ed: Exploring the Uncomfortable Difference Between Cuomo and Obama

Michelangelo Signorile discusses the differences between Andrew Cuomo and Barack Obama.

BY Michelangelo Signorile

August 08 2011 3:00 AM ET

 But now, with polls showing a majority of Americans supporting marriage equality and with New York making it mainstream, few activists will accept the argument any longer. The president has dug himself a hole, having thought the states’ rights argument was a way of saying there wasn’t much he could do as president on marriage. That’s backed by his comments at an LGBT Pride reception at the White House at the end of June: “I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community. I have delivered on what I promised.” He’s saying his administration is no longer defending DOMA in court, and since there’s not much he can do legislatively on the issue since Republicans control Congress, that his job is done on marriage and he’s leaving it to the states. That analysis, however, completely ignores the power of the presidency, which is being used by our enemies who fight us on marriage equality by continually pointing to the president’s position.

This is in sharp contrast to Cuomo’s position, and it’s where the comparison between the two is absolutely justified. What either man can or can’t do with respect to his respective legislative bodies is not the point. This is about leadership. Andrew Cuomo stands up and says, I’m your champion and I’m going to lead. Obama says, I’m “evolving,” and rather than leading, I’m following the American people, the majority of whom now support marriage. Obama refuses to get out front. This is true on a variety of issues, from the stimulus package to protecting the environment—to health care too—where Obama has started out with the compromise position rather than going forth boldly with what he truly believes. He’s so afraid of losing that he pursues a strategy he perceives to be safe but which is ultimately weak.

That’s exactly what he’s doing on marriage right now. He believes his position will help him in battleground states (and, as some have said, he likely will change his position after the 2012 election). But the voters he is thinking about are already opposed to him for a variety of other pro-gay achievements—including dropping DOMA—and already believe he secretly supports marriage equality, no matter his claims. It can only help him to publicly come out in support because the base of his party will be energized. That is where Obama can learn much from Cuomo, who went full speed ahead and didn’t look back.

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