June 29, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
Mainstream media press Obama on marriage

President Obama (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Obama said on Wednesday the process that led to passage of the New York marriage law was “a good thing” when asked during a news conference, although he refrained from endorsing marriage equality.

“What I’ve seen happen over the last several years, and what happened in New York last week, I think is a good thing because what we saw was the people of New York having a debate talking through these issues,” Obama said. “It was contentious, it was emotional, but ultimately, they made a decision to recognize civil marriage, and I think that’s exactly how things should work.”

Obama also said he believes “each community is going to be different, each state is going to be different to work through them.”

Questions on marriage for Obama came from two reporters during the news conference: NBC’s Chuck Todd and the Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler. Coupled with questions that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney took from Meckler and reporter Bill Press on Monday, these inquiries reflect a greater interest in Obama’s marriage position from the mainstream media.

NBC News asked Obama if he believes marriage is a civil right, but Obama didn’t respond and instead detailed the administration’s accomplishments for the LGBT community, including his decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

“Let me start by saying that this administration, under my direction, has consistently said we cannot discriminate as a country against people on the basis of sexual orientation,” Obama said. “And we have done more in the two-and-a-half years that I’ve been in here than the previous 43 presidents.”

Pressed  on whether he’s uncomfortable with the idea of different states having different rules or whether anti-marriage laws smack of segregation, Obama talked instead about the growing acceptance of LGBT people.

“Chuck, I think what you’re saying is the profound recognition on the part of the American people that gays and lesbians and transgender persons are our brothers, our sisters, our children, our cousins, our friends, our co-workers — and they have to be treated like every other American, and I think that principle will win out,” Obama said.

Obama’s statement on the passage of the New York marriage law being “a good thing” received further attention during the news conference when the Journal asked if that remark meant he personally supports same-sex marriage, but Obama said that comment didn’t mark a change in his position.

“I’m not going to make news on that today,” Obama said. “Good try, though.”

Pressed further, Obama maintained he wouldn’t make news on the issue and replied, “Laura, I think this has been asked and answered. I’ll keep on giving you the same answer until I give you a different one. All right? And that won’t be today.”

Obama has faced increased scrutiny over his lack of support for same-sex marriage as reaches out to the LGBT community for help to win re-election in 2012. Last week, he held a LGBT fundraiser in New York City and later today a Pride reception is set to take place at the White House.

A brief transcript of the exchange between reporters and Obama on the marriage issue follows:

NBC News: Should marriage be a civil right?

President Obama: Let me start by saying that this administration, under my direction, has consistently said we cannot discriminate as a country against people on the basis of sexual orientation. And we have done more in the two-and-a-half years that I’ve been in here than the previous 43 presidents …

Ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” making sure that gay and lesbian partners can visit each other in hospitals, making sure that federal benefits can be provided to same-sex couples across the board, hate crimes — we have made sure that that is a central principle of this administration because I think that’s the central position of America.

Now, what we’ve also done is we’ve said that DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional, and so, we’ve said we cannot defend the federal government poking its nose into what states are doing and putting the thumb on the scale against same-sex couples.

What I’ve seen happen over the last several years, and what happened in New York last week, I think is a good thing because what we saw was the people of New York having a debate talking through these issues. It was contentious, it was emotional, but ultimately, they made a decision to recognize civil marriage, and I think that’s exactly how things should work. …

So I think it is important for us to work through this issues because each community is going to be different, each state is going to be different to work through them. In the meantime, we filed briefs before the Supreme Court that say we think that any discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgenders is subject to heightened scrutiny and we don’t think DOMA is constitutional.

So, I think the combination of what states are doing, what the courts are doing and the actions that we’re taking administratively all are how the process works…

NBC News: Aren’t you at all uncomfortable about different rules in different states? Some people make the argument that that’s what we saw during segregation.

Obama: Chuck, I think what you’re saying is the profound recognition on the part of the American people that gays and lesbians and transgender persons are our brothers, our sisters, our children, our cousins, our friends, our co-workers — and they have to be treated like every other American, and I think that principle will win out. It’s not going to be perfectly smooth, and it turns out the president, and I’ve discovered since I’ve been in this office, can’t dictate precisely how the process works, but I think we’re moving … and I think that’s a good thing.

Wall Street Journal: …I wanted to follow up on one of your earlier answers on same-sex marriage. You said that it’s a positive step that some of these states including New York are moving towards that. Does that mean that you now personally do support same-sex marriage putting aside what individual states decide?

Obama: I’m not going to make news on that today. Good try, though.

Journal: I know you said you didn’t want to say anything more on same-sex marriage, but what said before really led me to believe that that’s what you personally believe. …

Obama: Laura, I think this has been asked and answered. I’ll keep on giving you the same answer until I give you a different one. All right? And that won’t be today.

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

3 Comments
  • Bankole Babalola

    America is sick. Is this what your founding fathers fought to achieve when they declared “God bless America’? You are gradually erasing every trace of God in your national life. Your president even hosts a pride parade in the White House! Shame. The respect we in the developing world have for him has since been eroded as he has proved himself more anti-God than any president before him. I wont be surprised if he turns out to be the forerunner of the antichrist.

    One thing is clear though… God always wins!!!

    • You are WAAAAAAAY over-reacting. We are making Man’s laws, not God’s laws… This is not a holy war, except that your pastors and religious leaders are telling you that it is. Give yourself time to think for yourself about it: why don’t they have you devote your time and energy to the things that JESUS said to focus on: the poor, the hungry, those without shelter… many MANY LGBT people also focus on that at their churches and community centers. It is what God commands: “Love thy neighbor as you would love thyself”. Oh, and: “render unto God that which is God’s, and render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”.

  • Obama also said that there is still strong opposition to same-sex marriage… I say that the opposition is all rhetorical! It is NOTHING like the violent opposition to racial equality and integration that existed in the south in the 1950s and 60s. No comparison. And of course that modern civil rights movement is what has caused an understanding of other civil rights movements such as ours. We owe them many thanks :)

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