The Audacity of Foolish Optimism

When Obama’s new Department of Justice penned a bigoted defense of the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this year, I joined most liberals and moderates in calling it needlessly hurtful, and worrying to say the least. Still I reserved judgment until later, following the old Zen approach to inchoate victories or defeats: “we’ll see.”

Today I claim victory! In new papers filed today, the Department of Justice explained that it defends DoMA only out of duty, and hopes to see it repealed. Admittedly, talk is cheap, but there are reasons to trust the DoJ on this one. First, statements of political intent are rarely relevant to court filings, making this either pointless surplusage, or a signal of the intention of the administration at large. Second, if this is a signal, it’s a “costly signal.” Conventional wisdom treats support for gay rights as a politically risky proposition. If he secretly opposes gay rights, Obama gains more from telling the truth than from lying to his supporters.

There’s every reason to still trust the President on gay rights. Score one for hopelessly naïve optimism.

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