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Bush daughter adds to Obama's problems

By LZ Granderson, Special to CNN
  • Former President Bush's daughter Barbara supports same-sex marriage
  • LZ Granderson says her support adds to difficulty President Obama has on issue
  • He says Obama appears sympathetic to gay marriage, wary of political downside
  • Granderson: A GOP candidate against Obama could woo voters opposed to gay marriage

Editor's note: LZ Granderson is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and and has contributed to ESPN's Sports Center, Outside the Lines and First Take. He is a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism and a 2010 and 2008 honoree of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for column writing.

(CNN) -- Now, I'm not so cynical as to believe Barbara Bush does not believe in the words she said in her PSA supporting marriage equality in New York.

Maybe George W. Bush's daughter has always supported marriage equality and finally feels strong enough to say it; maybe she has gay friends; maybe she downloaded the first season of "Modern Family" and decided gay people are not as scary as she thought. Who knows? I'm just happy to see her use her platform to introduce civility and fairness.

But I am also aware that her little revelation follows roughly 18 months of gay rights support coming from the mouths of some fairly surprising sources. People such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, former first lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain. I also see that despite Obama doing more for the GLBT community than any other president in this country's history, it only took a 22-second PSA to suggest he is still somehow behind the eight ball when it comes to gay rights.

After all, if Bush's daughter supports gay marriage, what's Obama's problem?

If Cheney supports gay marriage, what's Obama's problem?

Now I'm sure sowing seeds of doubt was not Bush's intent when she agreed to do the PSA. On second thought, considering the amount of Cheney exposure she might have had over the years, I'm not sure if sowing doubt was her intention or not. But what I do know is that with each Republican-linked face that speaks out against discrimination based upon sexual orientation, the more President Obama, the supposed face of change, appears dogmatic and antiquated by comparison.

The more the president remains silent or unchanged on the marriage equality issue, the more he runs the risk of alienating his base. However, if he speaks out the way Bush did in her PSA, he provides the GOP with the kind of sound bite Karl Rove can only dream about.

"I support gay marriage"

Yeah... that's not going to go over well in the Bible Belt. That's part of the reason why Mary Cheney, Dick's openly gay daughter, kept her opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment to herself until after her father was re-elected. It's the reason why 2012 hopeful Mitt Romney moved from being a supporter of GLBT rights when he was a state level politician in the 1990s to a position far right of that when he developed national aspirations

It's a brilliant scenario for conservatives because once again the Republican Party is positioned to dictate the national conversation on a matter of importance. If the 112th Congress is unable to tout an improved economy or jobs within the next 10 to 12 months, a presidential candidate may be able to resurrect the gay marriage debate to help fuel a run at the White House. This is why in 1996, Illinois State Senate candidate Obama said, "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages," but the 2008 presidential candidate Obama uttered no such words. In fact, despite all the good he has done, the best Obama can say about the all-important marriage equality debate is his opinion is evolving.

But that's politics, and at the end of the day everyone who holds office -- even a man as earnest as Obama appears to be -- must walk this morality tightrope at some point. Everyone tables their own sense of right and wrong and uses rights, benefits and policies as bargaining chips for measures they want more -- or to save their own butt. A wise man once said, "you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain." That wise man was Harvey Dent. A short time later The Joker helped him prove his point. And somewhere there's a GOP presidential hopeful having a good ole laugh at the predicament Obama now finds himself in.

Amazing what 22 seconds can do, isn't it?

The Bushes and Cheneys are free to support marriage equality all they want, because their time in the White House is over and no GOP presidential hopeful wants to be too closely associated with them anyway. They can appear to have turned a new leaf when in reality they probably didn't have a problem with marriage equality in the first place. It just wasn't politically advantageous to say as much.

So, Barbara Bush, if you're reading this, welcome to the party. And I do hope you stay a while. I would say "Better late than never," but the truth is marriage equality is one of those parties hardly anyone in your position shows up early for anyway.

That's why despite all the great things he's done for the GLBT community, I don't expect to see Barry here anytime soon.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.