Obama and gay marriage: In U.S. religion, the Golden Rule rules

As pundits and politicians struggle to divine the political fallout from President Obama’s sudden endorsement of same-sex marriage, one thing has become clear: The Golden Rule invoked by Obama to explain his change of heart is the closest thing Americans have to a common religious law, and that has important implications beyond the battle for gay rights.

In fact, one of the most striking aspects of Obama’s revelation on Wednesday (May 9) that he and his wife, Michelle, support marriage rights for gays and lesbians, is that he invoked their Christian faith to support his views. In past years, Obama — as many believers still do — had cited his religious beliefs to oppose gay marriage.

Obama told ABC News that he and the first lady “are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

The Golden Rule template is also one that experts say will likely one day pave the way for greater acceptance of marginalized groups like Muslims, just as it did in past generations for Catholics and Jews. Mormons like Mitt Romney already seem to be benefiting, as their visibility grows and more Americans see them as living upstanding lives.