On the heels of the referendum vote in North Carolina on Tuesday, President Obama came out yesterday in support of gay marriage in an interview with ABC News. Despite the fact that many referendum votes on gay marriage have resulted in huge margins of victories for supporters of traditional marriage (the NC vote was 61%–39% in favor of the marriage amendment), the President has reached his conclusions on the basis of personal experience.
President Obama had the following to say regarding the evolution of his position:
I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.
Another telling point he made in the interview is that he previously thought that civil unions would have been sufficient to guarantee rights of hospital visitation and other rights related to marriage. He also expressed concern about infringing on the traditional and religious connotations of the term “marriage.” However, he finally concluded that he needed to stake his claim in support of same-sex marriage.
The President also considers the debate over same-sex marriage to be generational. He recounted that he speaks to Republicans on college campuses who share his views about same-sex marriage despite the fact that they have differing views on other policies.
Another interesting element of the interview is that the President recognizes his departure the historic Christian position on homosexuality. He states:
[Y]ou know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.
While it may be a subtle acknowledgement, I am thankful to see that President Obama recognizes his views are at odds with the Christian community. In essence, he places his own personal experience above the teaching of Scripture and the church. Unfortunately for the President, this places him in a precarious position for an ethical standard. While he claims to live by the principles of Scripture, he is willing to set aside the standards of his own choosing to make himself and his friends feel better about their own experience. Instead of filtering his views through the lens of Scripture, he has filtered Scripture through the lens of experience.
Such an approach to ethics carries severe risks because the personal experience of individuals can be used to justify almost anything. What happens when the President meets polygamists who are in committed relationships seeking to rear their children? What happens when the President befriends a brother and sister who desire to have their incestuous relationship recognized as a legitimate marriage? If personal experience is our only guide, then we have jumped headlong down a very slippery slope.
Rick Klein, “President Obama Affirms His Support for Same Sex Marriage,” May 9, 2012.