Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced that it will no longer defend the 15-year-old Defense of Marriage act (DOMA) from challenges in federal court, ruling the law unconstitutional.
Supporters of same-sex marriage are hailing this decision as a watershed in civil rights. Supporters of traditional marriage are wondering how the executive branch obtained the power to decide if laws are constitutional.
Most Americans believe the Supreme Court decides if laws are constitutional.
At least that's what we teach in government class.
The framing of same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue is brilliant politics. No one likes to be called a bigot, and in the sue-first, ask questions later society that we live in, many will simply shut up to get along.
It's easier that way.
We believe the wider issue of showing the difference between tolerance and acceptance would be helpful. One can tolerate a behavior or action and still disagree in a civil and polite manner. This is different from acceptance which clearly means what it says: unconditional agreement.
We believe that the vast majority of Iowans and Americans are tolerant of same-sex civil unions, but do not accept same-sex marriage as the equal of traditional marriage -- the union of one man and one woman.
There are those that will argue, from a civil rights perspective, that civil unions are somehow lesser than marriage, a "separate but equal" segregationist ploy to oppress homosexuals.
That argument has obviously found some traction, especially with the Obama administration. But candidate Obama said numerous times that he favored civil unions but not same-sex marriage.
So what has changed? Why the power grab to determine an issue central to the core of our society?
It would appear that the defeats in the mid-term elections and planning for the 2012 presidential election might have something to do with the timing of this action.
It's called energizing the base, getting your supporters fired up so they can give you money to fight the long struggle that lies ahead.
Follow the money.