California ruling puts Obama on spot

The culture war is back.

A federal judge’s ruling Wednesday striking down California’s ban on same-sex marriage is a historic and possibly pivotal legal victory for gay rights advocates, but the decision also poses a formidable threat to President Barack Obama’s strategy of relegating divisive social issues to the back burner.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision is just the latest in a series of rulings and high-profile legal challenges drawing public attention to gay rights issues in a sustained way for the first time since San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom grabbed headlines in 2004 by okaying same-sex marriages in that city.

As gay and lesbian activists celebrate what they hope is the leading edge of a wave of momentous court rulings and legislative successes, they remain uneasy with Obama’s nuanced position on gay marriage.

During the 2008 campaign, Obama took what many on both sides of the gay marriage debate viewed as a straddle. He publicly announced his opposition to same-sex marriage, but he also said that he opposed the California ballot measure seeking to ban it, Prop. 8— the same ban Walker ruled unconstitutional Wednesday.

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