Bill O'Reilly is a ratings engine for Fox TV.
He knows how to stir the pot - whether the subject is guns, gays, or budget cuts. He's not strictly conservative in all the positions he advocates, and that makes for engaging – and sometimes bombastic – exchanges on his own show 'The O'Reilly Factor" as well as providing fodder for other programs on the Fox TV network to chew on.
On Tuesday, O'Reilly came really close to endorsing gay marriage.
“The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals ... 'We’re Americans, we just want to be treated like everybody else. That’s a compelling argument, and to deny that you’ve got to have a very strong argument on the other side. And the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible,' said O'Reilly in an exchange with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.
O'Reilly closed by saying that “I support civil unions, I always have." The he added: “The gay marriage thing, I don’t feel that strongly about it one way or the other. I think the states should do it.”
So, O'Reilly is pro civil unions, which is not news. He's said that before. And saying that gay marriage is a states' issue – not a federal one – echoes the comments made by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy made during the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) hearing today: "The question is whether or not the federal government, under our federalism scheme, has the authority to regulate marriage."
But O'Reilly didn't exactly endorse gay marriage. He essentially called the argument against gay marriage weak, and described the argument for gay marriage as "compelling."
This is a fence that many Republicans are also trying to perch on. Of late, a few have made rather high profile shifts to the gay marriage side. The biggest was Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. The Christian Science Monitor's Mark Guarino wrote that "His reversal on the issue [earlier this month] is significant considering he is one of the original backers of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the 1990s and a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman in 2004."
Still, most GOP politicians who have come out in favor of gay marriage are either no longer in office or have family members who are gay. As The Christian Science Monitor's Linda Feldman writes, the key indicator of a sea change within the Republican Party will be "when a major Republican currently holding elective office in a red state – and who does not have a gay child or another close relative – announces that he or she now supports a right to same-sex marriage."
Many Republicans say it’s just a matter of time. In fact, some Republicans say it’s entirely possible that the GOP’s next presidential nominee will support same-sex marriage. “At the rate this issue is changing within the party, I think it’s not out of the question,” Margaret Hoover, a former George W. Bush White House aide, told Time magazine.
Is Bill O'Reilly getting ready to move into the Sen. Rob Portman's gay marriage camp? According to The Atlantic Wire, he implied that he was during the gay marriage exchange with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly: "I hate to say this, and next week I've got something that Kelly's really not going to like."
Whatever he announces, O'Reilly will be certain to entertain.