Recently the Obama administration filed court papers claiming a federal marriage law, called The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), discriminates against gays. This was surprising because at the same time government lawyers have been instructed to defend it. In fact, Department of Justice Department lawyers are seeking to dismiss a suit brought by a gay California couple challenging the 1996 Act. The administration's legal strategy so angered gay activists that they claimed the president is backtracking on campaign promises.
Last week as a response to the pressure from numerous gay groups, the administration flip-flopped, vowing to repeal DOMA. The administration’s assertions that it will aggressively support a campaign to repeal DOMA represent the worst of “politics as usual” decisions. Against the backdrop of record unemployment rates, recessionary trends in an out-of-control economy, and a raging healthcare debate; it’s hard to understand why DOMA is on the president’s radar screen. The administration seems to be unaware that radical gay marriage proponents have nowhere else to go - Independents and Republicans are not going to embrace the marriage redefinition issue. Advancing the agenda of gay marriage is only urgent if the President is watching the meteoric decline of his approval ratings. Even if it’s about popularity, he might find other issues to address, which involve less risk and affect tens of millions.
Let’s not forget that it was gay marriage that torpedoed John Kerry presidential bid. George W. Bush found an army of the faithful ready to join his camp because he affirmed the most basic building block of the culture. Further, in 30 cases in which the citizens have been allowed to vote on marriage protection, they voted against gay marriage and marriage redefinition. Looking at this important social issue from a management perspective, the administration should be given a grade of D in terms of messaging and strategic implementation.
If a savvy leader was attempting to make major sweeping change in a corporate setting, he would build a crackerjack team and move from easy wins to progressively more complex issues. Despite the administration’s fondness for history, strong strategic leadership needs to be part of their holiday reading list.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.