WASHINGTON (BP) — President Obama urged voters in his Democratic acceptance speech Thursday night (Sept. 6) to choose what might be a harder path but one that “leads to a better place,” one that includes rights to abortion and same-sex marriage.
At the Democratic National Convention’s final session in Charlotte, N.C., the president focused on such issues as the economy, energy, education, debt reduction and Medicare, but he also reaffirmed his support for abortion rights and the legalization of same-sex marriage.
While Obama declined to use the words “abortion” or “gay marriage” in his 40-minute speech, his choice of terms signaled his advocacy for both.
[[email protected]@120=Read our story, ’25 Democratic Convention speakers defend legal abortion,’ here.]He called for voters not to turn away from seeking the change he advocated in his successful 2008 campaign, saying, “If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void,” including “Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry or control health care choices that women should be making for themselves.”
Obama also reminded listeners of his administration’s reversal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, the ban on open homosexuality in the armed services.
American citizens “were the change” four years ago and are the reason “why selfless soldiers won’t be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love,” the president said.
Obama’s nod to abortion rights in his acceptance speech again demonstrated — this time in a rather understated way — his willingness to embrace abortion as a centerpiece of his campaign. The president’s promotion of abortion rights as a part of his re-election effort is unprecedented in United States politics and comes at a time when recent polls have shown Americans who identify themselves as pro-life have reached majority status.
The president announced his support for same-sex marriage — which is legal in six states and the District of Columbia — only four months ago after years of publicly opposing its legalization.
Speaking before Obama, Vice President Joe Biden also cited abortion rights, advocating for “a future where women once again control their own choices, their destiny and their own health care.”
Democratic delegates heard a different message, however, in the closing prayer of the convention. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, mentioned both the sanctity of human life and religious freedom in his benediction. He praised God “for the gift of life.”
“Grant us the courage to defend it, life, without which no other rights are secure,” Dolan said. “We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected.”
Dolan has served in recent months as a primary critic of the Obama administration’s contraceptive/abortion mandate, which requires employers, including religious organizations, to pay for insurance under the 2010 health care law that covers contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs. Dolan and many others have decried the administration’s refusal to provide adequate conscience protections for those who object to underwriting contraceptives or abortifacients.
The president in his speech appeared to avoid explicit advocacy for religious liberty, although he said, “We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone.”
Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, voiced contrasting positions on abortion, marriage and religious liberty in his Aug. 30 acceptance speech. “As president, I will protect the sanctity of life,” he said. “I will honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America’s first liberty: the freedom of religion.”
In asking for Americans’ support, Obama said they “will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation.”
He told the delegates and a national television audience. “It will be a choice between two different paths for America, a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.”
The president said, “The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I’m asking you to choose that future.”
While contrasting his accomplishments with the positions of Romey and his running mate, Paul Ryan, Obama acknowledged there have been shortcomings.
“And while I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go,'” the president said.
Dolan had offered a similar prayer at the Republican National Convention the week before, although it was briefer on such subjects as the sanctity of human life than his benediction for the Democrats.
In praying at the Democratic convention, Dolan also seemed to address the effort to legalize same-sex marriage when he prayed, “Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community.”
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).