You say you want an evolution

President Obama’s pronouncement that he supports gay marriage is a seismic shift in the presidential campaign, though it’s little more than a talking point here in Massachusetts, the first state to legalize it.

But it’s still fascinating to see the reaction around the country, especially in the wake of voters in North Carolina, where the Democratic National Convention will be held this summer, approving a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

“Mr. Obama finally stopped temporizing and ‘evolving’ his position on same-sex marriage and took the moral high ground on what may be the great civil rights struggle of our time,” says the New York Times editorial, while noting his stance is symbolic.

“Pink smoke is rising from the White House chimney,” declared Rush Limbaugh, adding that Obama is pursuing a “war on traditional marriage.” Limbaugh has been married four times.

Others on the right predictably raised the specter of this opening the floodgates to codify all sorts of unacceptable behavior. Former Reagan political advisor Jeffrey Lord, writing in the American Spectator, suggests he now has a chance with Dr. Jill Biden should polygamy now come to pass.

Gay rights supporters on the left were overjoyed, while overseas his announcement is being hailed as setting worldwide precedent.

Conservative gays gave the president a golf clap, noting he’s years behind former Vice President Dick Cheney, and arguing he was either unwillingly pushed by Vice President Joe Biden or, sending out Biden as a Trojan horse, is using the issue for political purposes.

But with 30 states now having laws defining marriage as one man and one woman and four states having the issue on the ballot in November, how much will it help him beyond his base? Maybe not much, but it may not hurt him as deeply as some suggest.

Barney Frank doesn’t think Obama’s decision to come out will make much difference. A Wall Street Journal editorial doubts the election will turn on anything other than the economy, but notes that Obama’s move means Mitt Romney will now face a barrage of questioning about his own views.

While Romney renewed his opposition to “the tender issue” of same sex marriage, it’s easy to forget he was governor when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that banning gays from marrying was unconstitutional. And while Romney tried to use a 1913 law meant to prevent interracial marriages to block out-of-staters from marrying in Massachusetts, he eventually acquiesced at the urging of his then-chief counsel and now state Rep. Dan Winslow. Under Winslow’s direction, the state revamped the marriage permit application from “Husband” and “Wife” to “Party A” and “Party B” and the administration held training sessions for town clerks and justices of the peace.

That passive resistance was not lost on conservatives leading up to this year’s primaries and it’s one of the reasons those on the right continually question Romney’s claim of being “severely conservative.”

It will also be interesting to see how it will impact the Senate race here. As a state senator, Scott Brown was opposed to gay marriage and, when questioned, has continually said states should determine their own course of action. He has also said it’s “settled law” in Massachusetts and a nonissue. But Elizabeth Warren has been loud and proud of her support for same sex marriage. The issue, along with the debate over health care reform, could exacerbate the ideological divide in the race.

But what should not be lost in the moment is that the nation’s first black president, born to an interracial couple who were not allowed to marry in a number of states at the time of his birth, has admitted a change of heart and put the weight of his office behind one of the most socially divisive issues of our time. Now that’s news.

                                                                                                                                                            –JACK SULLIVAN

BEACON HILL

Carl Stanley McGee decides to leave the state Gaming Commission shortly after Rep. Dan Winslow said he was hiring a former state trooper to investigate an old allegation of child abuse against McGee, the State House News Service reports (via Lowell Sun). The Herald, in an editorial, raises the real question behind the McGee hiring: What level of due diligence will the Gaming Commission apply to casino gambling applicants?

Embarrassed by national publicity, the Massachusetts House approves legislation doing away with the Department of Public Health’s ban on bake sales, the Eagle-Tribune reports. Wednesday’s Download explored how DPH’s good faith attempt to put a dent in the obesity epidemic led to the Bay State becoming the punch line.

State Rep. Mark Cusack of Braintree says he is to blame for having a treasurer who is a Braintree town employee, a violation of campaign finance law. He says the hiring was an oversight and he won’t forfeit his campaign funds as the GOP is demanding.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Avon water superintendent is still on the job despite his agreement to plead guilty to federal charges of submitting false water quality reports to the state.

An Essex Superior Court judge rules that the residency requirement for Lynn police officers isn’t set in stone and should be subject to collective bargaining, the Lynn Item reports.

Springfield residents speak out against a proposed increase in their trash fees.

Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan reversed his unpaid suspension of the city’s public works director for not policing illegally parked cars downtown after a city councilor gave the Herald News pictures of Flanagan’s city administrator parking his car in a posted no-parking area.

The city of Quincy, which used to own Quincy Medical Center (nee Quincy Hospital) before it became a non-profit, is reaping the benefits of the sale to for-profit Steward Healthcare System. The hospital is now the third largest taxpayer in the city, with a $2 million annual property tax bill.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

A panel at a recent Healing for Democracy conference looked at how demographic shifts are playing into continued discrimination against minorities.

ELECTION 2012

US Rep. John Tierney and Republican challenger Richard Tisei discuss limiting who can contribute to their campaigns, the Lynn Item reports.

MassINC Polling Group President Steve Koczela analyzes the numbers to see if religion will play a role in the US Senate race.

Elizabeth Warren criticizes Scott Brown for his vote against the student loan interest rate plan.

Joan Vennochi suggests that, contrary to denials from Warren’s camp and the testimony the campaign has collected from those involved in her hiring, her claim of distant Cherokee heritage probably did have something to do with her landing a job at Harvard Law School.

Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen takes on Mitchell-er-Mitt Romney.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

New York passes Boston as the country’s second-biggest technology cluster.

Americans are more likely to move up the economic ladder in the northeast part of the country and less likely in the south, a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts finds. Time has the story.
 
WBUR reports that Yahoo’s CEO Scott Thompson is caught up in “resume gate” after he allegedly said he had a degree in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College in Easton when he only had a degree in accounting.

TD Bank will close a Springfield call center, eliminating 200 jobs there.

The House and Senate in Minnesota approve bills authorizing funding for a new $1 billion Minnesota Vikings football stadium, but the two measures differ on how much the Vikings must contribute, the McClatchy Newspapers report (via Governing).

The Charles Street AME Church and OneUnited bank continue to duke it out in federal bankruptcy court.

The US Postal Service scales back plans for rural post office closings.

Fannie Mae posts its biggest profit since being bailed out.

EDUCATION

Boston’s City on a Hill Charter School is looking to expand in New Bedford now that the state has lifted the cap on charter schools.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, who was highly critical of the city’s schools during his run for office and since he became mayor iin January, reached an agreement with the schools superintendent to resign her post with a $200,000 severance package..

HEALTH CARE

The percentage of hospital workers in Massachusetts getting flu vaccines continues to lag, renewing talk of mandating vaccination for health workers.

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA is moving ahead with capital improvements on the area’s busiest bus routes, thanks to a stimulus grant.

The Methuen City Council backs away from red light cameras, partly because of resident opposition but also because the state has failed to develop statewide regulations on the cameras, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

A dog named Lilly gets hit by a freight train while pulling her owner off the tracks after the owner passed out drunk, the Lowell Sun reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Warmer ocean waters have contributed to an increase in the numbers of a bacteria found in shellfish which can cause illness in humans. Last year, five people on the Cape fell seriously ill after eating contaminated raw oysters.

CommonWealth updates its story on Newton’s contract to purchase electricity generated from renewable sources. It turns out the city will pay more for going green but, according to city estimates, less than it is now.

The Conservation Law Foundation, which typically trains its sights on regulators, is taking on polluters directly, suing four scrap metal companies that the advocacy group says are polluting state waterways.

Wow, a calico lobster, what are the odds of that? Scientists calculate them at about 1 in 30 million.

MEDIA

U.S. News & World Report says the Boston Globe’s approach to profitability by seeking a niche audience is proof that there are successful ways to get readers to pay for content.

The voice of the Red Sox dies from a heart attack while driving, NECN reports.

Joel Ward, the black Washington Capitals hockey player who was the subject of racist tweets after scoring the winning goal to eliminate the Bruins last month, is again at the center of an ignorant firestorm after other non-Boston fans took to Twitter after he received a penalty that allowed the New York Rangers to win in overtime.

James Aloisi, the former secretary of transportation and new author, is struck by an act of kindness on Boylston Street.