September 24, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
Obama ‘respects differing views’ from black pastors on marriage
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney

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

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Obama “respects differing views” when asked Monday about the different opinions on marriage equality voiced in recent days by black religious leaders.

Carney emphasized that Obama’s support for marriage equality is “a matter of civil marriage” and the president believes religious institutions can decide on their own what constitutes a marriage in response to a Washington Blade question about the black community’s support for the president in the wake of his marriage equality endorsement.

“The president said at the time and firmly believes that people have different views on this issue, and he respects that,” Carney said. “He has made clear that his support for the right of every American to decide who he or she loves and the right to marriage is a matter of civil marriage, and that religious institutions — churches and — have their own sacraments and decide what they are. And he respects differing views on this.”

Asked if Obama would make the case for marriage equality before black audiences, Carney replied, “The president has been very clear about his position. He had a number of conversations at the time when he made his views public, and I’m sure, given the opportunity, he will express his views in the future.”

Black leaders have expressed views on both sides of the marriage issue in recent days. One news conference was held on Friday in which Rev. Al Sharpton and others called on Maryland voters to uphold the same-sex marriage law when it comes before them on the ballot in November, while a simultaneous news conference was held by Rev. William Owens, president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, who decried same-sex marriage and criticized Obama for supporting it. Owens admitted that he receives a stipend of $20,000 a year from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage during the news conference.

On Saturday evening, the Congressional Black Caucus held as part of its annual dinner a roundtable discussion in which marriage was addressed. According to the Washington Post, views on the issue differed and some leaders expressed outright opposition to Obama’s position. Rev. Jesse Jackson, a marriage equality supporter, questioned why the issue had risen to such prominence, reportedly saying, “Don’t win the same-sex debate and lose the right to a house, health and education.”

Obama hasn’t been shy about talking about his personal support for same-sex marriage — particularly when addressing an LGBT audience. The president noted his and first lady Michelle Obama’s support for marriage equality in June during a Pride celebration at the White House. Marriage also came up in both their speeches at the Democratic National Convention, notably when President Obama was critical during his nomination acceptance speech of “Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry.”

The exchange between the Blade and Carney follows:

Washington Blade: Jay, over the weekend the Congressional Black Caucus held as part of its annual dinner a forum on the issue of same-sex marriage. Views reportedly differed, but there was a lot of opposition to the president’s support for marriage equality. Even the Reverend Jesse Jackson said he supports same-sex marriage and couldn’t understand why the issue had gained prominence. How would you evaluate the continued support of the black community to the president as a result of his support for marriage equality?

Jay Carney: The president said at the time and firmly believes that people have different views on this issue, and he respects that. He has made clear that his support for the right of every American to decide who he or she loves and the right to marriage is a matter of civil marriage, and that religious institutions — churches and — have their own sacraments and decide what they are. And he respects differing views on this. He expressed his opinion and he has taken positions on different matters of policy, but he certainly respects the views of others.

Blade: The president has talked about his support for marriage equality in subsequent speeches, but would you expect the president to make his case for support for marriage equality if he were to address a venue specifically for the black community?

Carney: Well, that’s a couple of ifs and bits of speculation there. The president has been very clear about his position. He had a number of conversations at the time when he made his views public, and I’m sure, given the opportunity, he will express his views in the future.

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

Comments are closed
© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.
Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin