Analysis: Obama’s Call for Unity Omits Divisive Stances on Cultural Topics

By Kevin Mooney | August 29, 2008 | 6:45pm EDT

In his speech Thursday to accept the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Barack Obama said it was possible to find common ground on culturally divisive issues such as abortion, guns, same-sex marriage and immigration.

( – In his speech Thursday to accept the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Barack Obama said it was possible to find common ground on culturally divisive issues such as abortion, guns, same-sex marriage and immigration.
But while he spoke briefly and in general terms about those issues, his campaign Web site and his own political history shows that Obama’s positions on those issues are distinctly left-wing and leave little room for compromise.
On same-sex marriage, for instance, Obama told the crowd at Invesco Field in Denver that Americans on both sides could at least support anti-discrimination initiatives.
“I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination,” he said.
But Obama supports civil unions that furnish same-sex couples with legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. He has also called to “fully repeal” the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a measure signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 that continues to enjoy support from many of the nominee’s fellow Democrats.
The Defense of Marriage Act protects states from having to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states. Ordinarily, under the "Full Faith and Credit Clause" of the Constitution, states are required to recognize "the public Acts, Records and judicial Proceedings of every other State."
Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Thomas Carper (D-Del.), for instance, previously told they would not support repealing (DOMA). Obama’s position as spelled out on his Web is unambiguous. It states:
"Obama also believes we need to fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally recognized unions.”
Recent poll numbers show “the differences on same sex marriage” between Obama and the public at large are not insignificant. This past May, Gallup reported only 40 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, while 56 percent disagree.
Yet, again, Obama’s campaign Web site details his strong support for same-sex marriage nationwide, among related issues, as well as his support for ending the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military.  For Obama’s complete views on homosexual issues, click here.
On abortion, Obama has identified himself as a strong advocate for “reproductive choice” and “a woman’s right to choose” on his Web site. In his convention speech, Obama emphasized the “need to reduce unwanted pregnancies” but did not elaborate on his own position.
In addition to proclaiming his support for the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide, Obama has consistently opposed pro-life measures while serving on both the state and national level.
Obama voted against a proposal from the Bush administration that would give states the option of covering unborn children under the State Children's Health Insurance program.
He also opposed legislation that would prevent a female minor from being moved across state lines to have an abortion in the event the move would violate consent laws in her home state.
Earlier this month, Obama clashed with pro-life activists who took issue with his record as chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee in the Illinois State Senate.
Obama consistently opposed a bill called the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which would allow babies who survived an abortion to receive medical care. A federal version of the bill was signed into law by President Bush in 2002.
The federal Born Alive Infant Protection Act sought to protect babies who survived late-term "induced labor abortions." The act said a born baby – living outside her mothers' womb – would be treated like a "person."
Obama claimed that he opposed the state version because it did not contain the same qualifying language in the federal version that would protect Roe v. Wade, but when the bill was later amended to include that language, Obama still opposed it.
In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Obama accused the National Right to Life Committee and others of “lying” about his position.
“And I hate to say that people are lying, but here's a situation where folks are lying,” Obama responded when asked about the state bill.
“I have said repeatedly that I would have been completely in, fully in support of the federal bill that everybody supported – which was to say – that you should provide assistance to any infant that was born – even if it was as a consequence of an induced abortion,” he added.
“That was not the bill that was presented at the state level. What that bill also was doing was trying to undermine Roe vs. Wade," Obama said.
When it was subsequently proven that Obama was being disingenuous, his campaign said that he actually was concerned how the bill would affect abortion law in Illinois and not the issue of Roe v. Wade.
Although Obama, like McCain, has been supportive of “comprehensive immigration reform” that includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens in the United States, he did not touch on any particulars in his Denver speech.
“Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers,” Obama said.
On his Web site, Obama talks about how “immigration raids are ineffective,” adding that despite a sevenfold increase in recent years, immigration raids only netted 3,600 arrests in 2006 and have placed all the burdens of a broken system onto immigrant families.”
Obama also touched on gun rights in his speech, suggesting that Second Amendment protection could be upheld for hunters, while also working to get advanced weaponry away from criminals.
“The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals,” Obama said in Denver.
The Democratic Party Platform also emphasizes an assault weapons ban, while declaring support for the Second Amendment.
“We will protect Americans' Second Amendment right to own firearms, and we will keep guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists by fighting gun crime, reauthorizing the assault weapons ban, and closing the gun show loophole, as President Bush proposed and failed to do,” the platform reads.
Obama’s “Blueprint for Change,” however, does not mention the Second Amendment. Matters of crime and punishment are discussed within the context of civil rights. “Obama will work to ban racial profiling and eliminate disparities in criminal sentencing,” it reads.
Earlier this year, Obama expressed support for the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Washington, D.C., gun ban that had been in place for over 30 years. But his recent statements are out of sync with his actual public record, some critics have argued.
John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” discussed Obama’s views in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. Obama’s most recent statements do not square with his time as a state senator, Lott said.
Obama opposed a bill passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 2004 that would have offered legal protection to homeowners for defending themselves, even if they were in technical violation of a local gun ban, said Lott. 
Obama was also quoted in the Montreal Gazette as saying, “I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures.”

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