Obama remains evasive on gay marriage

Two gay men holding hands, San Francisco, California 5 October 2006 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Barack Obama has said he is opposed to a rollback of rights for gay couples

There's an old piece of advice that it is better to take the wrong decision than to do nothing.

US President Barack Obama might heed that. His contention that his position on gay marriage is evolving looks at best lame and at worst dishonest - as though he is a mere spectator neutrally watching his own position develop of its own accord.

Evolution takes aeons, but the president hasn't even got weeks. His spokesman has just said that he has an "unparalleled" record on gay rights and he rather awkwardly suggests that the president will, some day soon, make his position clearer.

"I can tell you that I'm sure it is the case that he will be asked again at some point when he gives interviews or press conferences about this issue, and I'll leave it to him to describe his personal views."

Could that be a touch of exasperation from the man who has to defend the president's views?

Given that most of us would suspect the president's liberal instincts would make him favour gay marriage, you have to ask: "What's the problem?"

Most social conservatives are going to vote Republican anyway. But not all of them. Many strongly Christian African-Americans will have profoundly conservative views about this.

And Mr Obama is desperate for this usually loyal group to turn out and vote for him. He doesn't want any distraction that might curb their enthusiasm.

But there is an "on the other hand": one report suggests one-in-six of Mr Obama's big fundraisers are gay and his campaign has gone out of its way to court the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) vote.

So, a firm decision probably means offending someone and losing some votes. This evolution is about survival of the fittest - which policy mutation allows the most votes to survive.