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Obama keeps his conscience in the closet

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Tue May 8, 2012
 President Obama, shown at a February event, hasn't backed Vice President Joseph Biden's support of same-sex marriage.
President Obama, shown at a February event, hasn't backed Vice President Joseph Biden's support of same-sex marriage.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Biden's comment about approving of same-sex marriage downplayed by White House
  • LZ Granderson says Obama put himself in a fix by ending his support for gay marriage
  • He says Obama may be right in thinking support of same-sex marriage could hurt at the polls
  • Granderson: Does president want to be on the wrong side of history?

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- Let's be clear about one thing: Vice President Joe Biden's recent comment about being OK with marriage equality did not place the president in a difficult situation.

The president placed the president in a difficult situation the day he decided to push his conscience back into the closet.

In 1996, when Barack Obama first ran for state office, he was in support of marriage equality. But once he started targeting the national stage, he became less supportive. Today he says he's "evolving," which seems to be shorthand for, "Back off, I don't want to lose this election."

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

To be fair, Obama's not the first politician to rewrite his history for political gain and he certainly won't be the last (right, Mitt?). And without question Obama has done more to help the gay community than any other president. But this awkward dance he's doing with the issue of same-sex marriage is a self-inflicted wound to his integrity.

All Biden did was speak from the heart. Just because the president lacks the fortitude to do the same does not mean the campaign should try to massage Biden's words to mean something other than their original intent.

Obama's view on same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage front and center

Besides, Biden's comments, along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, may feel good, but they're not moving any needles. There is no real pressure the gay community can put on the president, because the reality is the gay community doesn't have any leverage. It's either Obama or the guy who vows to push a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

No, the only question is how many days President Obama will allow his legacy to reside on the wrong side of history.

How many pages of his future biographies does he want dedicated to him not supporting this issue?

Thirty years from now, when the CNN specials are aired and the documentaries made, how much footage does Obama want his grandchildren to see of him ... "evolving"?

Because at this point, that's what it all boils down to, the choice to be politically savvy versus the choice to follow the heart of the man who on more than one occasion quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in saying "justice delayed is justice denied." It's an extremely difficult position to be in, but Biden and Duncan and the Clintons, and Dick Cheney, none of them put the president in that position. He did it to himself and only he can get himself out.

If he's so inclined.

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In the HBO series, "Game of Thrones", there was a powerful character who often drew praise—from foe and ally alike—for his honesty and integrity. That character, Ned Stark, was also called a fool, and eventually was beheaded in front of a cheering crowd before the end of the first season. You see in the game of thrones, it's more advantageous to be perceived as a man of honor than to actually be one. And when you realize how many lies, concessions and deals are necessary to become president, then you realize the race to the White House is nothing but a real life game of thrones.

Obama could come out in support of marriage equality and then see if the recent Pew poll showing more Americans support marriage equality than oppose it is actually true. That would be the honorable -- and foolish -- thing to do. Or he could wait to see if he's re-elected first before announcing he's finally evolved. Obviously, he would be taken to task for waiting so long to voice support for marriage equality, but it would also be obvious why he did.

There was a story in the April 20 edition of JET Magazine that featured four black pastors who aligned themselves with conservatives over the issue of marriage equality. One of those churches, Upper Room Church of God in Christ, is in North Carolina, the state that is going to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether to add an amendment banning same-sex marriages to its state constitution. The amendment would also ban "civil unions" and "domestic partnerships".

Is throwing support behind equality worth alienating voters? Maybe not.

During a recent campaign stop in North Carolina, the president didn't bring the measure up. But he has called the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, wants it repealed and supports the Respect for Marriage Act. Oh so close, isn't he?

And yet, no one is sorta married.

You either are or you aren't and most gay people are not, cannot get married. As a result, loving, committed couples pay more in taxes because they can't file jointly or sometimes are unable to cover their family with work issued health insurance.

All on Obama's watch.

Funny... barely a week has passed since introducing the new campaign slogan "Forward" and yet Obama seems content to be in this hypocritical holding pattern on this particular issue.

I guess he's no Ned Stark.

For better and for worse.

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

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