THE PLANK FEBRUARY 5, 2007
Contra Isaac, I'd actually like to defend Edwards for his answer on gay marriage. Isaac's right that the policy specifics of the answer Edwards gave in 2004 aren't that different from the answer he's giving now: he opposes gay marriage and he supports partnership benefits (his support of civil unions does seem to be new, or at least more pronounced). But what has changed is Edwards's explanation for why he favors the policy prescriptions he does.
Basically, by saying that his opposition to gay marriage stems from the fact that he grew up as a Southern Baptist in a conservative small town, he's conceding that there's no real moral or rational basis for his opposition to gay marriage, just a traditional one--and I think that's actually significant. Moreover, although he evidently didn't say this to the Times, I recently came across a fuller answer to a question about gay marriage that he gave at a town meeting in New Hampshire--an answer that seems equally significant. After explaining the root of his own opposition to gay marriage--i.e. the tradition he grew up in--he added:
My daughter who is 24 and goes to school in Cambridge--her generation and all of her friends believe this issue will completely disappear with their generation.
Now, granted, the fact that Edwards gave more or less the same response to the Times to the one he gave to the New Hampshire town meeting undercuts his claim that he's not being "formulaic." He's just got a new formula this time around. But as I tried to show in this profile of Edwards, just because he's often formulaic doesn't mean he's insincere. And, even though I disagree with Edwards about his opposition to gay marriage, his explanation of why he's opposed to it strikes me as admirably--and unusually--sincere. So does the fact that he seems comfortable that younger people--including his own daughter--have no problem with gay marriage and that, because of that, gay marriage will eventually become the law of the land. And that, I think, is different from the answer he gave in '04.