October 3, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
Obama still evolving on marriage

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday that President Obama continues to evolve on same-sex marriage.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney confirmed Obama remains in a state of evolution on the issue after he first said his views could change on the issue in October 2010.

“I don’t have an update for you on his position,” Carney said. “The remarks he made last year stand and I just don’t have anything new to add to that.”

Asked when this evolution might conclude, Carney repeated he doesn’t have “anything new.”

Obama first suggested his views on the issue could evolve in October 2010 during an interview with AMERICAblog’s Joe Sudbay. Some advocates have been pushing him to complete this evolution and publicly endorse same-sex marriage.

In 1996, Obama, during his bid to become an Illinois state senator, said in a questionnaire response to the Windy City Times, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”

On Saturday, questions emerged over whether Obama had come to support marriage equality when he gave the keynote speech at the 15th annual Human Rights Campaign National Dinner. The president made references to the enactment of same-sex marriage rights in New York as well as to the spouses of gay Americans without making an explicit endorsement of marriage equality.

At one point, when talking about progress, Obama said, “It happens when a father realizes he doesn’t just love her daughter, but also her wife.”

Carney dismissed any interpretation of those remarks as a hint that Obama now supports same-sex marriage.

“I would say that you’re over-interpreting remarks,” Carney said. “The president’s position on gay marriage is well known. The comments he made late last year about his views on it are well known, and I have no updates for you. I wouldn’t read into language there any change.”

Asked whether Obama’s comments referring to married gay couples at the dinner were disingenuous, Carney replied, “I think this president’s record on LGBT issues, his commitment to the rights of all Americans was evident on Saturday night both in his remarks and the response he got from the audience there, so I’ll leave it at that.”

Later on Monday, President Obama confirmed in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he’s “still working” on his views on same-sex marriage.

According to the Associated Press, Obama said gay couples should at a minimum have strong civil unions, but he stopped short of backing marriage equality. Obama was quoted as saying friends, family and children of same-sex couples whom he knows who are thriving are influencing his evolving views.

A brief transcript of the exchange between the Blade and Carney follows:

Washington Blade: Jay, I’d like some clarification on some things the president said on Saturday during a speech before an LGBT audience at the Human Rights Campaign dinner.

When he was talking about the American Jobs Act, the president said, “You’re also folks who are worried about the economy and whether or not your partner or husband or wife will be able to find a job.” Later on, when talking about progress, he said, “It happens when a father realizes he doesn’t just love her daughter, but also her wife.”

Should I interpret those remarks to mean the president now supports same-sex marriage?

Jay Carney: I would say that you’re over-interpreting remarks. I would just leave it to you to analyze. The president’s position on gay marriage is well known. The comments he made late last year about his views on it are well known, and I have no updates for you. I wouldn’t read into language there any change.

Blade: But isn’t it disingenuous for the president to speak reverentially about these people’s spouses when he doesn’t support same-sex marriage?

Carney: Again, I’ll let the president address that question. I think this president’s record on LGBT issues, his commitment to the rights of all Americans was evident on Saturday night both in his remarks and the response he got from the audience there, so I’ll leave it at that.

Blade: We’re approaching the one-year anniversary when the president first said he could evolve on same-sex marriage. He said that late in October 2010 in an interview with progressive bloggers. Has that evolution been shelved or is it still on the table?

Carney: Again, I think I just answered that question. I don’t have an update for you on his position. The remarks he made last year stand and I just don’t have anything new to add to that.

Blade: But when will the evolution come to an end?

Carney: Again, I don’t have anything new to add to that.

Watch the video here (via Think Progress):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZXjWVdotl8&feature=player_embedded

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
  • How much evolving does he need to do? So we all have to wait while he decides whether he can come to terms with the fact that same-sex couples want their equal rights. While he continues to ‘evolve’, the rest of us are being put through hell. Those of us in same-sex binational relationships are under threat of being ripped apart because federal law does not recognize our relationships.
    Come on Mr. President, put your words into action like you said you were going to do when you wanted our votes!!!

    • During the election for Ronald Reagan, the borough leader for the Bronx got tired of the “evolving” policy on Hispanics by the Democrats so he handed Reagan the election to teach them a lesson that the “evolution” of rights should not be taken for granted with just a promise that someday we would have those rights. So too with Obama. If LGBT rights do not become a part of the Democratic National Cnvention platform, then Obama should worry that he is now in a dead heat with Romney. Obama can’t afford to lose a political support base. He better sing more than “Let’s stay togetther” to the LGBT community or he may be singing the So long, farewell songfrom the Sound of Music.

  • It seems clear to me that the President will evolve if he wins re-election.

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