Arts & Entertainment
President Obama completes 'evolution' on same-sex marriage
By Lisa Keen
Originally printed 5/3/2012 (Issue 2018 - Between The Lines News)
Washington D.C.- President Obama said in a White House-arranged interview Wednesday afternoon that "same-sex couples should be able to get married."
The statement, in an interview with ABC, marks a significant and long expected "evolution" for President Obama in his political position concerning same-sex marriage.
"I've always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally," said Obama. "...I had hesitated on gay marriage, in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient." But after talking to friends and family, neighbors and staff, he said, "I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
The president's remarks can be viewed here. Excerpts will air tonight on ABC's "World News with Diane Sawyer."
Reactions were dramatic.
Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry group, said, "The President's support marks a historic turning point for the freedom to marry movement."
Incoming Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said Obama's remarks today would be "celebrated by generations to come."
"For the millions of young gay and lesbian Americans across this nation, President Obama's words provide genuine hope that they will be the first generation to grow up with the freedom to fully pursue the American dream," said Griffin. "...As President Obama recognized today, the fight to secure marriage equality is the defining element of our generation's search for greater freedom."
MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews called it "earthshaking" and predicted right-wing conservatives "will use everything they can to exploit this" politically in the November campaign.
Ted Olson, lead attorney for the same-sex couples challenging California's Proposition 8 ban, said, "Today is a proud day for all Americans."
"The bedrock American principles of freedom and human dignity are central to the political and legal convictions of Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and conservatives alike," said Olson. "President Obama's words remind us that marriage and equality are universal values that unite us all. They remind us that we are all--as a People and a Nation--striving to form a more perfect Union."
The interview, according to numerous media reports, was pre-arranged by the White House to take place with ABC Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts of Good Morning America. The media speculated the interview was set up hastily and deliberately to quell the political conflagration that erupted Sunday, when Vice President Joe Biden told NBC Meet the Press that he is "absolutely comfortable" with gay couples marrying and that he believes they should have the "exact same rights" as straight couples to do so.
Prior to Wednesday, President Obama has not previously expressed pro-active legal support for same-sex marriage equality. In October 2010, he told gay political blogger Joe Sudbay that he was "unwilling to sign onto same-sex marriage primarily" because of his "understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage." He said "attitudes" about same-sex marriage "evolve, including mine." And he reiterated that position two months later, in an interview with The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld, saying, "My attitudes are evolving onthis."
Numerous times since then, Obama and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney have been asked whether the president's position had yet evolved. With the Republican presidential race settling onto Mitt Romney, one national poll indicated the public didn't see much difference between Obama and Romney on same-sex marriage.
The ABC-Washington Post poll, conducted in early April, found 46 percent of 1,103 adults nationwide thought President Obama would "do a better job" at "dealing with social issues such as abortion and gay marriages," and 38 percent said Romney would. But the margin of error was 3.5 points, making the difference as small as 4.5 points.
Although there were many big news stories erupting at the same time--including news that the CIA had stopped a plot to blow up a plane--the mainstream media swarmed all over the Biden story. CNN media commentator Howard Kurtz wrote, in a DailyBeast.com blog, "There is absolutely no question that Biden's response was cleared by the White House. Vice presidents are not allowed to freelance on talk shows, especially on such a sensitive issue. So Obama was sending out Biden to further mollify the gay community without having to actually take a stand himself." MSNBC's news anchor Chuck Todd said the White House was being especially "sensitive" about the remarks because "gay money, in this election, has replaced Wall Street money."
Interest in Obama's position on same-sex marriage was in the news even prior to Biden's remarks. The Obama re-election campaign had issued a statement in March, opposing the North Carolina Amendment One, which bans legal recognition of any same-sex relationship. The statement said: "While the President does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples. That's what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do - it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples - and that's why the President does not support it." The campaign sent out a similar statement April 9 in opposition to a similar ballot measure before voters in Minnesota in November.
Asked about same-sex marriage on the campaign trail, Republican Mitt Romney said Wednesday he supports neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions.