Gay Marriage: What Would Lincoln Do?

Former president put practicality first: Cass Sunstein

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 13, 2012 12:34 PM CST

(Newser) – Abraham Lincoln was deeply opposed to slavery—but when it came to the politics of ending the travesty, he took a highly practical approach, writes Cass Sunstein at Bloomberg. As a Senate candidate, Lincoln refused to call for immediate abolition, arguing that it wouldn't have public support. "A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, cannot be safely disregarded," he said. "With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed." Perhaps Lincoln should have demanded an end to slavery, but he couldn't have forced it on an unready nation, Sunstein notes.

Soon, the Supreme Court could hear any of a number of cases tied to same-sex marriage. Not long ago, any court-imposed legalization of such marriages would have met with a backlash—and perhaps even a constitutional amendment banning the unions. But in a time when a president has endorsed gay marriage, and after an Election Day that saw three states vote in favor of it while another voted against a ban, it's clear that opposition to gay marriage is no longer a "universal feeling." As the country moves toward support for gay marriage, the argument for judicial "caution becomes weaker every day." Click through for Sunstein's full column.

Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Abraham Lincoln in the film Lincoln.
Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Abraham Lincoln in the film "Lincoln."   (AP Photo/DreamWorks and Twentieth Century Fox, David James)
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