Some predictions are rather safe to make. 2012 is almost certain to be a determinative year on the issue of same-sex marriage. Multiple courts appear poised to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] and, even more urgently, the appeal on California’s Proposition 8 at the Ninth Circuit U. S. Court of Appeals will set up a certain appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court. Given the facts of this case and the significance of the nation’s most populous state, the Supreme Court is almost certain to take the case. This sets the stage for the courts to make some determinative statement on same-sex marriage within the next several months — a decision that will go a long way toward setting the direction of the larger culture.

At the same time, the same-sex marriage issue will play a part in the 2012 presidential campaign. The reason for this is quite simple. The issue of same-sex marriage is about far more than marriage as a legal institution and about more than sexuality and personal autonomy. It is the great inescapable issue, and we will know in fairly short order what all the candidates believe about the issue.

Then again, maybe not.

President Barack Obama has done far more to advance the cause of gay rights than any previous president.  His executive orders and administrative policies have granted benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees, ordered the Department of Justice not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, and ordered the Department of State to make the rights of homosexuals a major priority and principle of American foreign policy. Beyond all that, the President led the effort to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, leading to the full integration of active homosexuals within the U. S. armed services.

But, what about the question of same-sex marriage? The President has explained that his views on the subject are “evolving.” Just a few weeks ago, the President told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that he is “still working on” the issue. The President has clearly affirmed something like same-sex marriage, assuring a gay rights group in October that “every single American deserves to be treated equally before the law.” In that context, there is little room for seeing that statement as anything other than a call for same-sex marriage….

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