Obama Moving Toward Endorsement of Marriage Equality?
President Obama indicated to a group of bloggers that his attitude toward marriage equality may be evolving toward an acceptance of full-fledged legal equality for gay and lesbian families.
Anti-gay politicians have, over the course of the last two years, defended their views by saying that their stance on marriage equality is "the same as that of the president." As a candidate, Obama spoke of wanting to see the repeal of the so-called "Defense of Marriage" Act, the anti-gay federal law from 1996 that excludes same-sex families from any sort of federal recognition. At the same time, Obama said that his personal view of marriage is that it should be reserved as a special right for heterosexual couples.
In an interview with a group of gay bloggers, Obama was asked about marriage equality by Joe Sudbay of America Blog. Obama reiterated that he is "a strong supporter of civil unions," and added, "I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage.
But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine," Obama added. "And I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships. I have staff members who are in committed, monogamous relationships, who are raising children, who are wonderful parents."
The president went on to say that he was "not prepared to reverse myself here, sitting in the Roosevelt Room at 3:30 in the afternoon," but that the issue remains "something that I think a lot about."
Obama also talked about having a strategy to be sure that another anti-gay law, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," is repealed, and opined strongly that, while he understands the frustrations of the GLBT community, he does not agree that his administration has failed to do its best for gay Americans.
"I guess my attitude is that we have been as vocal, as supportive of the LGBT community as any President in history," Obama told Sudbay. "I’ve appointed more openly gay people to more positions in this government than any President in history. We have moved forward on a whole range of issues that were directly under my control, including, for example, hospital visitation." Added the president, "And so, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think that the disillusionment is justified."
While some might see Obama’s remarks as evidence that he might one day shift in his view on marriage equality, others are unwilling to subscribe to that notion--if for no other reason than that skepticism remains as to the sincerity of the president’s lack of support for marriage rights for same-sex families. An Oct. 28 New York Magazine article by Dan Amira openly dismissed as "disingenuous" the distinction Obama makes when he says he upholds civil unions but not marriage equality.
Titled, "President Obama Getting Closer to Ending His Pretend Opposition to Gay Marriage," the article noted that Obama had opposed Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that rescinded marriage rights for gay and lesbian families in California. The article also tallied the president’s record of support for GLBT equality, and recalled that in 1996 Obama answered a questionnaire that asked about marriage equality by saying that he would be in favor of it.
"When you add it all up, the only conclusion that really makes sense is that, in his heart, Obama is fine with gay marriage, but didn’t think the nation was ready for a president who felt that way," Amira wrote. The article then went on to say, "Approval of gay marriage surged, it was legalized in a number of states, and Obama’s support for civil unions, which would have been considered relatively enlightened five or ten years ago, began to seem downright antiquated to many people."
Amira speculated that the comment might herald an open declaration of support for marriage equality in 2012. Given the social shift, a pro-marriage stance from Obama would "be inherently mainstream."
An Oct. 27 Politico article by Josh Gerstein echoed those speculations, citing Richard Socarides, who said, "Presidents don’t usually think out loud unless they intend to send a signal that they are shifting a position." Socarides, who had served as an advisor to Bill Clinton, went on to add, "I think [Obama] realizes he can’t run as a gay rights advocate in 2012 and be against marriage equality. People see domestic partnerships are separate but equal."
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.