White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to directly address a question Tuesday about President Obama’s continued lack of support for marriage equality and a potential Republican presidential candidate taking on a virtually identical position.
Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney declined to directly answer when asked about concerns of misjudging support from the LGBT community heading into the 2012 election by holding off on support for marriage equality as Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has said marriage should be left to the states — echoing Obama’s recently articulated position on the issue.
“I think you know that this president’s record on LGBT issues is exceptional,” Carney said. “He’s very committed to it. He worked very hard for ['Don't Ask, Don't Tell'] repeal, and he continues to work hard on these issues. And it’s not an issue of political support; it’s what he believes is the right thing to do and he will continue to do that.”
According to the Associated Press, Perry said last week at a Republican fundraiser that he’s fine with New York’s recent approval of same-sex marriage because he believes in the 10th Amendment right of states to regulate marriage as he remains personally opposed to gay nuptials.
“Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me,” he was quoted as saying. “That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.”
Perry, who’s widely expected to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president, backed a state constitutional amendment in Texas in 2004 that bans same-sex marriage as well as civil unions.
Later during the speech, Perry brandished his conservative leanings by taking pot shots at Obama and criticizing the president’s decision to pull 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by the summer of 2012. According to the AP, Perry said Obama should listen to his military commanders “and not his political advisers.”
Perry’s remarks on marriage are similar to the position Obama expressed recently on marriage during a news conference last month when he said the legalization of same-sex marriage was a “good thing.”
“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 added he believes “each community is going to be different, each state is going to be different to work through them.” But when later asked whether his views mean his personally supports same-sex marriage, Obama replied he wasn’t “going to make news on that.”
In 1996, Obama stated in a questionnaire response to what is now the Windy City Times that he supported legalization of same-sex marriage and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages. But the president’s position has changed since that time.
During the presidential campaign, Obama has said he believes marriage should remain between one man and one woman. Starting in October, the president has suggested that his views on marriage could evolve, but he has yet to endorse marriage equality.
Even though he has yet to endorse same-sex marriage, the president has taken steps during his administration to offer protections to same-sex couples. Obama has declared that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and has endorsed the repeal of that law.
One LGBT advocate maintains that even though President Obama has yet to endorse same-sex marriage, his position on LGBT issues is clearly ahead of his competition.
Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, said he thinks Obama believes his record on LGBT issues is sufficient for him to run in 2012 — a decision that Socarides said is correct.
“I think the president has decided that the record is good enough to run on, especially considering the competition, and I think he’s right,” Socarides said.
A brief transcript of the exchange between the Blade and Carney follows:
Washington Blade: Thanks, Jay. I want to go back to the issue of marriage. Last week Governor Rick Perry of Texas said he believes the issue should be left to the states, and the decision to legalize same-sex marriage in New York is fine with him, even though he personally is opposed to same-sex marriage. That’s virtually the same position as the President’s. Is there any concern that the President may be misjudging support from the LGBT community heading into the election if he’s offering the same position on marriage as a likely Republican presidential candidate?
Jay Carney: Look, Chris, I think you know that this President’s record on LGBT issues is exceptional. He’s very committed to it. He worked very hard for DADT repeal, and he continues to work hard on these issues. And it’s not an issue of political support; it’s what he believes is the right thing to do and he will continue to do that.
UPDATE: According to the Austin American-Statesman, Mark Miner, a Perry spokesperson, said the governor supports a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Such a measure would invalidate New York’s marriage law. Obama opposes amendments that seek to ban same-sex marriage.