June 25, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
White House responds to passage of N.Y. marriage bill

The White House (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A White House spokesperson late Friday reiterated President Obama’s belief that the marriage issue should be left to the states in response to the passage of same-sex marriage legislation in New York.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said the president believes gay couples should receive “the same rights and legal protections” as opposite-sex couples, but wants states to determine the best approach to offer these protections.

“The president has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples,” Inouye said. “That’s why he has called for repeal of the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ and determined that his administration would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in the courts. The states should determine for themselves how best to uphold the rights of their own citizens. The process in New York worked just as it should.”

Inouye issued the statement via e-mail in response to an inquiry from the Washington Blade. The statement recalls the speech Obama gave Thursday during an LGBT fundraiser in which he mentioned the then-pending marriage legislation in New York, but took no position on the bill. Obama said the New York was “doing exactly what democracies are supposed to do” by engaging in debate on the bill.

During his presidential campaign, Obama said he believes marriage is between one man and one woman, backed civil unions for gay couples. Since October, Obama has suggested he could evolve on the marriage issue, but he has yet to endorse gay nuptials. LGBT rights supporters have been pushing him to complete this evolution to back marriage equality.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

16 Comments
  • This carefully crafted doublespeak only makes the president look foolish. The leader of the Democratic Party cowers in the shadows of conservative Republicans like Ted Olson and Dick Cheney regarding this most fundamental issue? Just not credible. How does “President Cuomo” sound?

  • Brian: So, vote for the Republicans in 2012. Meanwhile, the more astute of us will bide our time (not easily, mind you, because he has pissed us off) until his second term, when I suspect we’ll see more of the Obama who campaigned and who we voted for. You can have that (even though he’s disappointed a lot of us, myself included), or you can have whatever P.O.S. the Republicans send down the pipe, someone who most definitely won’t even try to be a friend to our community. What’s it gonna be?

    • So thats your response to a valid comment? That Obama is the best we can hope for, take it or leave it? Sorry, I, for one, am not buying into “its the only choice we have” attitude that apologist Obama supporters have adopted. He is wrong about this issue but he is also wrong about alot of other issues. Unfortunately Obama’s main concern right now is to be “liked” and to be thought of as a “reasonable” guy. So the people who supported him in 2008 can jump in a lake and the people who hate get the cake.

  • Sometimes, I think too many gays don’t know a rat’s toenail about politics. Sure, Obama could say he is for gay marriage. What is that going to accomplish? It won’t pass Congress with the Republicans in charge of the Senate. Obama is biding his time. Would you really prefer to have the homphobe of a Bachmann in the WH?

  • Cuomo for President!

  • Yitzchak, pls don’t miss my point for my GOP examples…

    Specifically, why is the president falling so far behind the ‘progressive curve’ this cycle? National polls show a rapid shift among Dems and independents for marriage equality.

    Of course, your argument isn’t a new one (nor a necessarily “astute” one) either. It is there nearly every election, esp for incumbents. But it is the ultra-safe/ cynical/ where else are ‘they’ going to go(?) argument. ‘They’ (e.g., 2008′s highly motivated Obama voters) don’t have to go anywhere politically. They can stay home, have dinner out, see a movie, etc.– i.e., do all the things one’s unmotivated political base(s) do. Oh, my!

    Voters of all ages are pretty bright. They generally recognize a PR snow job when they hear it. The WH risks insulting/ ticking-off their supporters with such dishonesty, too. Add growing dissatisfaction with their snow job on Afghanistan– well, IMHO, they’re assuming a lot.

  • Remember, Obama was the candidate the gay community was dying to elect along with his gay marriage disapproving vice president Biden. Well, they got both of them.

  • And leaving it to the states addresses issues with federal employees, the military and immigration – how? Why weren’t issues of racial or gender equality left to the states?

  • To Brian and Yitzchak and all of you people of who forgot or never learned LGBT history. The position of that states have propriety rights on same sex marriage actually originated within the LGBT community.

    HRC hosted the first mainstream presidential candidate forum debate at the Reagan building and one of the questions asked of course was same sex marriage. Vt. Gov. Howard Dean said he signed the first equality bill – he didn’t get much of an applause. . Rev Al Sharpton wowed the crowed with his unequivocal support for full equality. The then Senator from Illinois Carol Mosley Braun was actually the one who first raised the position that it ought to be up to the individual states to legalize same sex marriage. When the Washington Post published a story the next day about the forum and quoted HRC’s director Elizabeth Burch as saying that in her opinion, Braun has the best position of all. Naturally, her comment was interpreted as an endorsement. The unintended result was that the conservatives ran with it and as a result, a majority of states now ban same sex marriage.

    Now before you start your habitual slinging of mud in a yet another direction, be mindful that at the time, there was considerable reluctance within the LGBT community to use the courts as a pathway because it was widely believed with considerable justification, that judges were hostile to gays. Thats why we’re where we are. As someone who remembers a time when gays were jailed, there was no employment protections of any kind, can you do us all a favor? SHUT UP and DO something about it.

  • Does Obama think mixed-race marriage should also be left to the states?

  • Cuomo for President!
    Barack….a wiener!!!!!

  • Lackluster and insulting. He really needs to grow up on this issue.

  • Obama is once again behind the times and has missed his chance to support same-sex marriage. He has never been the “Fierce advocate” that he promised to be, and quite frankly he is a political coward who has allowed himself to be bullied by the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrat traitors throughout his presidency. He has failed the LGBT community, immigrants, unions, environmentalists, and Progressives in general. I only wish we had another option in a Democratic Primary to replace Obama with someone like Andrew Cuomo. If it comes down to Obama or a Republican, of course I will vote for the spineless Obama, but I will do it reluctantly believe me.

  • What if Alabama still restricted access to some drinking fountains, stores, and restaurants and Vermont and NY did not?

    It is definitely a different situation, but that is the same sort of approach the president is defending here.

    I think Obama is good on a lot of issues, but he needs to move forward on this one.

  • Good points, all– esp. given the importance of a president’s leadership upon potential legislative branch advancements. Specifically, Obama’s simple endorsement of Senator Feinstein’s bill to repeal the federal DOMA would be helpful.

    In addition, there is a significant possibility that both the federal and state DOMAs will be struck down by SCOTUS– even that marriage equality itself will be ruled a constitutional right by various federal courts (in addition to Judge Walker’s ruling on Prop 8). So a president’s public position can be just as important and given due weight, in judicial branch deliberations, too.

    “The states should determine for themselves how best to uphold the rights of their own citizens. The process in New York worked just as it should.”

    That sentence by the WH’s Shin Inouye appears to have the White House washing its hands of federal government responsibility for the constitutional rights arguments, being made in the courts against CA’s Prop 8 and the federal DOMA. It implies federal courts have no role– or worse, that their are NO constitutional rights for gay couples worthy of federal court scrutiny. At the very least, it fails to pay due respect to the FEDERAL courts on both coasts that are hearing the cases of gay plaintiffs CURRENTLY.

    The president’s political people will serve the president and justice better by not making White House political statements that can be used and cited against marriage equality advocates in those current federal cases.

    Sean’s analogy is pretty good too (and as others have alluded). The whole “states rights” line from the WH of late is too reminiscent of the argument used by some bigots against enactment of civil rights and voting rights laws in the 1960s.

    It’s really a mistaken strategy (probably f/ Plouffe/ Axelrod) on a number of levels.

  • “The states should determine for themselves how best to uphold the rights of their own citizens.”
    A Republican could have said this ! Is this also true for racial civil rights? women’s rights? Humph. !

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