Last week President Obama declared his affirmation of same-sex marriage. Former Obama campaigner and prominent South Dakota Democrat Steve Hildebrand said that declaration marked "a great day for America":

It's something that's been in his heart a long time. What he did today was show bold leadership that will be popular with some and very unpopular with others [Steve Hildebrand, quoted in staff/wire, "Democrats Praise Obama on Gay Marriage," that Sioux Falls paper, 2012.05.10].

I guess that makes this a bad week for the Matt Varilek campaign:

Democratic congressional candidate Matt Varilek said Tuesday that he does not support gay marriage, a position that puts him at odds with his competitor in the race, Jeff Barth.

It also puts him at odds with President Obama, who revealed last week that he now supports allowing same-sex couples to marry.

"I don't agree with the president's new position," Varilek said, adding that he doesn't support efforts to redefine "traditional marriage."

Barth, meanwhile, said that although gay marriage is not his main focus, he would vote to support it if it came up in Congress [Jonathan Ellis, "Democratic Candidates Split on Gay Marriage," that Sioux Falls paper, 2012.05.16].

Rats. I already have both of my Democratic House candidates failing to distinguish themselves from Rep. Kristi Noem on the Keystone XL pipeline. Now I have Varilek tacking the wrong way on marriage and equality. And I have Barth hitting the right notes on marriage equality and perhaps larger issues.

Varilek isn't way out in right field. He just seems hung up on the word marriage:

I support civil unions because I think any American, no matter what their orientation deserves the same legal protection when it comes to taxes and healthcare, or are visiting a sick partner in the hospital," Varilek said. "But, when it comes to the term marriage itself, I think we should leave that to individual states and individual churches to decide for themselves [Matt Varilek, quoted in Peggy Moyer, "Gay Marriage Divides U.S. House Candidates,", 2012.05.16].

Nonetheless, Varilek is taking a weaker position than Barth. Anna at Dakota Women duly upbraids Varilek for his obsolete view:

More and more people (including Varilek's opponent in the primary) have begun to see the cruelty of denying the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. Why on earth should we as feminists support this person? Honest question. I don't get it. And while I'm at it, any feminist should recoil at a candidate who uses a phrase like "traditional marriage" to describe a model and an understanding of marriage and sexuality that is actually pretty modern.

The longer I remain an active observer of politics, the more tired I get of being told that I need to vote for the candidate who has a chance of winning, or the candidate who is the lesser of two evils, or the candidate who is a Democrat, or the candidate who is a better fundraiser, or whatever. This is about an issue of basic civil rights, and Matt Varilek is unapologetically on the wrong side of it. And we shouldn't stand for that [Anna, "Matt Varilek and Marriage Equality," Dakota Women, 2012.05.16].

I know that feeling, Anna. I can guarantee that I will not vote for Kristi Noem, and I will not sit by and deny her Democratic challenger my vote. Varilek has a huge edge in organization and fundraising. But his rejection of the President's properly evolved position on marriage equality motivates me all the more to take a hard look at his positions and his opponent's (assuming Barth ever updates that website to post an Issues page!) before I decide which man I want fighting Noem's self-serving right-wingery.

Update 07:35 MDT: Pope Benedict XVI said earlier this year that gay marriage helps "undermine the family, threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself." Yo, Pope, take it from someone who is actually doing the marriage thing: gay marriage doesn't threaten my family, our dignity, or our future one bit.