May 9, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
HISTORIC: Obama endorses marriage equality
Barack Obama, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, gay news, gay politics dc, Washington Blade

President Obama announced his support for equal marriage rights for same-sex couples Wednesday afternoon in an interview with ABC News. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Obama ended his 19-month long evolution on the issue of extending marriage rights to gay couples on Wednesday when he voiced support for marriage equality.

In an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, Obama endorsed marriage equality after he said he’s “stood on the side of broader equality for the LGBT community,” but “hesitated” on same-sex marriage because he thought “civil unions would be sufficient.”

“I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people the word marriage evokes very powerful traditions,” Obama said.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vqfnwxMNE4

But after conversations with his own staff members, openly gay and lesbian service members, and discussions with his wife and daughters, Obama said he “just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

The president maintained his views are a personal position, and he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue of same-sex marriage on their own.

LGBT groups praised Obama for becoming the first sitting president to support same-sex marriage as he heads toward the general election.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Obama “made history” by “boldly stating” gay Americans are entitled to equal rights and that those equal rights can only come through marriage.

“His presidency has shown that our nation can move beyond its shameful history of discrimination and injustice,” Solmonese said. “In him, millions of young Americans have seen that their futures will not be limited by what makes them different. In supporting marriage equality, President Obama extends that message of hope to a generation of young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, helping them understand that they too can be who they are and flourish as part of the American community.”

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said Obama joins other figures, such as former President Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden in endorsing same-sex marriage.

“Through thought and conversation about these families and their dreams and challenges, President Obama has reflected on his own values of fairness and respect for others, and completed his journey to support for the freedom to marry,” Wolfson said. “He now becomes the first sitting president to join the majority of Americans whose hearts have opened and minds have changed in favor of the freedom to marry.”

In a sense, Obama’s support for same-sex marriage returns him to a position he stated on the issue in 1996 when running to become an Illinois state senator. In a questionnaire response to what is now the Windy City Times, Obama expressed support for same-sex marriage years before any state in the country legalized it.

“I favor legalizing same-sex marriage, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages,” Obama wrote in a typed letter with his signature at the bottom.

But that support for same-sex marriage vanished when Obama pursued higher office. In the 2008 election, Obama ran for president saying he supported civil unions as the way to extend legal protections to gay couples.

Then-candidate Obama articulated his views on marriage in August 2008 during a forum with pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church, who has been criticized by the LGBT community for his support of California’s Proposition 8.

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” Obama said. “Now, for me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”

The situation changed in October 2010. Obama said during an interview with progressive bloggers in response to a question from AMERICAblog’s Joe Sudbay that “attitudes evolve, including mine,” suggesting his views could change to support marriage equality.

But for 19 months the evolution continued. The Washington Blade repeatedly asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney if Obama had completed his evolution, why he continues to withhold support for marriage equality and when the evolution would come to an end. Virtually every time, Carney responded that he didn’t have any updates to the Blade inquiries.

In June 2010, Obama’s views on marriage made headlines again when New York was set to legalize same-sex marriage and Obama was going to appear at a high-profile LGBT fundraiser. Asked about his views on marriage when New York last year legalized same-sex marriage during a news conference, the president said he wasn’t going to make news. That was the same line he gave most recently when asked about the subject in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

“I’m not going to make news in this publication,” Obama said. “I’ve made clear that the issue of fairness and justice and equality for the LGBT community is very important to me. And I haven’t just talked about it, I’ve acted on it.”

Even though the president had withheld support for marriage equality, Obama has spoken out through a campaign spokesperson against anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives pending before voters in Minnesota and North Carolina, which was approved by voters Tuesday. Obama’s announced support for marriage equality comes after the vote in that state.

The president’s endorsement of same-sex marriage comes as the media have given greater scrutiny to his views and the seeming contradiction of not supporting same-sex marriage, but supporting equal rights for LGBT people.

On Sunday during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Vice President Joe Biden said he’s “absolutely comfortable” with married gay couples having the “exact same rights” as straight couples.

Media outlets and bloggers reported that Biden’s comments were an endorsement of same-sex marriage and that the vice president had become the highest-ranking official to support marriage rights for gay couples.

But the vice president’s office issued a clarification immediately afterward saying Biden, like Obama, is still “evolving” on same-sex marriage.

Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod attempted to mitigate the flurry of media attention that was unleashed following Biden’s remarks, first in a message via Twitter, then telling reporters in a conference call Monday that Biden and Obama were in line.

“I think that they were entirely consistent with the president’s position, which is that couples who are married — whether gay or heterosexual couples — are entitled to the very same rights and very same liberties,” Axelrod said.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney faced a barrage of questions on Biden’s remarks and Obama’s views on same-sex marriage. Why does the president oppose same-sex marriage? If everyone thinks the president supports same-sex marriage, why doesn’t he endorse it?

Carney replied with answers he’s given previously: the president’s record on LGBT issues is noteworthy and substantial; he has no updates on Obama’s personal views; Biden’s belief that the rights of citizens should be protected is consistent with the president’s view.

“I think the president is the right person to describe his own personal views,” Carney said, “He, as you know, said that his views on this were evolving, and I don’t have an update for you on that.”

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

22 Comments
  • And the Log Cabin Republicans responded by calling the president’s decision “callous and offensive.” Considering the platform the Blade insists on giving those self-loathing tax cut fetishists, I certainly hope you will make sure to focus on that sweet little reaction.

  • Well, Obama has made history a number of times, now as the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage. But what will the political impact be?

    POLL: Will his endorsement of same-sex marriage help or hurt Obama in November?
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  • Nobody who has been paying attention has doubted that this has been Obama’s position for quite some time. Whether stating it openly will help or hinder his reelection chances remains to be seen.

    Personally, I believe this will motivate many more right wing bigots (who wouldn’t otherwise schlep out to vote for Romney) to vote for Romney than it will motivate Democrats and Independents (who wouldn’t otherwise schlep out to vote for Obama) to vote for Obama.

    Net loss for the good guys.

    I hope I’m wrong.

    Dear Flying Jesus in the Sky, I hope I’m wrong.

  • Great job on keeping the heat on this whole time, Chris! We can all be sure that without this heat, Obama would have waited until after the election – becoming, probably, the last Democratic presidential nominee to oppose same-sex marriage.

  • I'm Just Sayin'

    You make a good point Dan. I thought the same thing when I read LCR’s comments. The word “bitter” kept jumping from the page.

    What LCR deemed “cold comfort” to the citizens of North Carolina just reinforced why they lack any relevance as a so-called gay advocacy organization. The only hope for NC and the 31 other states where the GOP engineered gay marriage bans, is the US Supreme Court. Other than LCR’s ED and it’s BOD, any one else think a President Romney would populate the court with justices who question state’s rights and challenge the status quo? So, it should be of not cold comfort but great comfort to every gay American who puts equality over economics, that the President endorsed gay marriage today.

    If reading the hundreds of rebukes that have already been posted in multiple media outlets regarding LCR’s comments doesn’t cause them to take pause, then perhaps they should read the statement from GOProud. I mean when you’re on the same page with those guys almost verbatim, you should be ashamed. LCR needs to do a little evolving of its own.

  • Wasn’t Jimi Hendricks who put it best?

    “Scuse me, while I kiss this guy.”

    Thank you, Mr. President!

  • Now all the single-issue voter LGBTs will be more prone to ignoring Obama’s attack on civil liberties, the war, the drug war, the immigrant war, his attack on the environment, his expansion of government secrecy, his attack on protestor rights, his signing the NDAA (indefinite detention of US Citizens without trial), the killing of US citizens without trail, and on and on.

    If we can go from a country where woman and racial minorities could not vote then we can elect an alternative party candidate that is pro-equality, pro-civil liberties, and pro-peace. If we went from thinking we’d never elect openly-gay politicians and a black President then we can elect an alternative party candidate.

    Occupy, woman’s groups, immigrant groups, and labor groups are out marching yet all of their grievances are collectively caused by the 2party system (remember the Democrats sell out on health care?).

    Just as MLK stood up to LBJ on Vietnam, we still need to stand up to Obama for all the wrongs he’s done.

    If a single issue is more important than the rights of those killed by Obama’s needless wars, Obama’s attack on LGBTs with HIV who need medical marijuana, the attack on LGBT and other protestor’s rights, the attack on woman though poverty and war, and the attack on ALL Americans with NDAA (oh and the pending attack on the internet) then go ahead and vote for Obama and justify his evils.

    Otherwise un-occupy the 2party system of poverty and war.

    Gary Johnson Defends Gay Marriage
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    Romney Obama the Same?
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    21 liberals should vote for alternative party candidates instead of Obama in 2012
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  • I refuse the false dilemma of picking either of the corporately controlled 2party tyrants.

    I empathize with Romney fears. Yeah, he’s evil. I know. Obama is evil too and he’s just more discrete and savvy about it.

    Obama & his needless wars = literal war on woman though drone attacks

    Obama & the Democrat war on medical marijuana = war on breast caner fighters and HIV+ people

    Obama & the Democrat war on protestors rights = war on LGBTs

    Obama & the Democrat war on immigrants = war on people of all walks of life

    Obama & the anti-choice Democrat war on women = half-assed health care bill

    Obama & 2party system war on the environment = appointing people from Monsanto to the FDA, pipeline, and rearranging nuclear standards after the Japanese nuclear crisis (enjoy your radiation America).

    Obama & 2party system war on Americans = NDAA and killing of citizens without trial

    Not voting for an alternative party because of the greater of evils fears is equivalent to the nonsense of the fearful people who bitched when Gavin Newsome took on marriage in 2004. Just like the fearful people who bitched when Ted Olson & David Boise took on Prop 8. Just like the liberals who ignored 100% pro-equality Democrats Al Sharpton in 2004 and then Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel in 2008.

    Dr. Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Rocky Anderson, Roseanne Barr, or Stephen Durham are better than Obama.

    Being afraid to vote for alternative party is as worthless of fearful gays afraid of brave gays insisting on marriage equality, or woman and racial minorities afraid to fight for ht right to vote. There are always oppressed people ok with the back of the bus for their futile fear-based reasons.

    Idealism and the rejection of fear gave us the civil rights movement, the right for woman to vote, the LGBT rights movement, and Occupy.

    Idealism and the rejection of fear was MLK standing up to LGBT on the Vietnam war.

    Idealism can also emancipate us from the abuser/victim cycle between voters and the corporately-controlled 2party tyranny of war and poverty.

    2012 Presidential Debate Of Alternative Parties
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  • CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

    WELL, REPUBLICANS, THIS IS OUR BEST SHOT. WE NEED TO TAKE IT. IF HE SURVIVES THIS, WE’RE DOOMED!
    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

  • Obama is evolving. He is evolving into lower form of life, an out-of-control animal who will not give up his power to Romney or anybody else. He will say or do anything. He will declare martial law if he has to. Ron Paul says get the government out of marriage.

    • CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

      “Adrian Salsgiver,”
      RON PAUL IS RIGHT. IF OUR BIRACIAL PRESIDENT SURVIVES THIS FOOLISHNESS, HOPEFULLY, CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS WILL NOT. FOR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO SAY IT IS A “GOD-LOVING” COUNTRY, THEN, ALLOW TWO MALES TO GET MARRIED NATIONWIDE, WOULD PROVE THAT STATEMENT TO BE A MONUMENTAL LIE.
      CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

  • This changes very little.

    When Obama came out partially in favor of the right to marriage, leaving it up to bigots in states and localities to decide, this is what changes – we’ll no longer say that “Obama is a long time bigot, a racist warmonger, a Bill of Rights busting lap dog of the rich and an empire building union buster.” Instead we’ll say that “Obama is a long time, partially contrite bigot, a racist warmonger, a Bill of Rights busting lap dog of the rich and an empire building union buster.”
    Obama is a right wing candidate. He’s to the right of Nixon across the board on civil liberties, unions and union rights, Social Security and Medicare, the drug wars, environmental questions and wars of aggression.

    The way forward for working people, the only group capable of creating real change, lies in independence from our enemies in the Democrat and Republican parties and in supporting unions, the growing union left, the Occupiers and the struggle movements of people of color, women and the GLBT communities. That won’t change no matter which right wing candidate wins.

    On November 6th sit it out or vote socialist as a protest and otherwise spend your time building the movement, not one of the two parties of bigots.

    • CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

      “Bill Perdue,”
      MAN, I HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT STAYING HOME THIS ELECTION. NO ONE IN MEMPHIS SEEMS TO BE EXCITED. MEMPHIANS EITHER DO NOT LIKE HIM, OR, THINK HE IS A “SHOE-IN.” PEOPLE NEED TO BE STIMULATED IN ORDER TO VOTE; IN THIS ELECTION CYCLE, NO ONE PROVIDES THIS STIMULATION. SO, THE NEGRO COMMUNITY CAN CHEER. HISTORY BOOKS WILL PROBABLY SAY, “America’s First African-American President Won Re-Election by a Landslide.” AND, THE “SLOW-ROLL” DOWNHILL CONTINUES.
      CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

  • WOW..Some of you queens are just pathetic and Insane!

    • Now ain’t that the truth.

      Next month will be 43 years since Stonewall, and one of the reasons we haven’t achieved full equality yet is because there are self-hating, self-destructive lunatics among us, in our own community. Morons who don’t have three pragmatic atoms in all their brains combined.

      Read the comments in the popular gay blogs and weep.

      I fear for us, as a community.

    • CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

      “chris,”
      I AM A MASCULINE HOMOSEXUAL. I DO NOT THINK “QUEENS” – TRADITIONAL ONES, AT LEAST – WOULD BE READERS OF, Washington Blade.
      CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

  • Nothing like distracting away from the real issue for 2012, THE ECONOMY!

  • Francois Arouete

    When President Obama sent me an email asking for yet more money immediately after announcing his ‘evolution’ on ‘marriage equally’ (the money grubbers couldn’t wait a New York minute) all I wanted to know was, Why should I give him money for saying no more than Dick Cheney said eight years ago?

    Yes, eight years ago the war-monger one-percenter Vice President Dick Cheney came out and said exactly what Obama said two days ago but no one made much of a brouhaha about his ‘evolution’. And “whisk, whisk, goodbye to all that. History is bunk.” Hurray! Hurray!

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    • I'm Just Sayin'

      Francois, if it makes you feel better, send Dick Cheney a thank you note. However, if you are financially able to support the President’s re-election efforts and you aren’t simply because you thought the timing of the solicitation was gauche, then let me give you the perspective you seek.

      Answer this single question: What happens to the fight for equality if Mitt Romney is the person shaping the ideology of a federal judiciary from which every major step forward in equality in the past 50+ years emanated?

      The real distractions in this election are the economy and jobs. Who nominates the next 2 -3 justices is the big prize on which party insiders are focused.

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