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President Obama completes ‘evolution’ on same-sex marriage

By |2012-05-03T09:00:00-04:00May 3rd, 2012|News|

By Lisa Keen

{Washington D.C. —} President Obama said in a White House-arranged interview Wednesday afternoon that Òsame-sex couples should be able to get married.Ó
The statement, in an interview with ABC, marks a significant and long expected ÒevolutionÓ for President Obama in his political position concerning same-sex marriage.
ÒIÕve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally,Ó said Obama. ÒÉI hesitated on gay marriage civil unions would be sufficient.Ó But after talking to friends and family, neighbors and staff, he said, ÒIÕve 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.Ó
The presidentÕs remarks can be viewed here. Excerpts will air tonight on ABCÕs ÒWorld News with Diane Sawyer.Ó
Reactions were dramatic.
Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry group, said, ÒThe PresidentÕs support marks a historic turning point for the freedom to marry movement.”
Incoming Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said ObamaÕs remarks today would be Òcelebrated by generations to come.Ó
ÒFor the millions of young gay and lesbian Americans across this nation, President ObamaÕs words provide genuine hope that they will be the first generation to grow up with the freedom to fully pursue the American dream,Ó said Griffin. ÒÉAs President Obama recognized today, the fight to secure marriage equality is the defining element of our generationÕs search for greater freedom.Ó
MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews called it ÒearthshakingÓ and predicted right-wing conservatives Òwill use everything they can to exploit thisÓ politically in the November campaign.
Ted Olson, lead attorney for the same-sex couples challenging CaliforniaÕs Proposition 8 ban, said, ÒToday is a proud day for all Americans.Ó
ÒThe bedrock American principles of freedom and human dignity are central to the political and legal convictions of Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and conservatives alike,Ó said Olson. ÒPresident ObamaÕs words remind us that marriage and equality are universal values that unite us all. They remind us that we are allÑas a People and a NationÑstriving to form a more perfect Union.Ó
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 Òabsolutely comfortableÓ with gay couples marrying and that he believes they should have the Òexact same rightsÓ 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 Òunwilling to sign onto same-sex marriage primarilyÓ because of his Òunderstandings of the traditional definitions of marriage.Ó He said ÒattitudesÓ about same-sex marriage Òevolve, including mine.Ó And he reiterated that position two months later, in an interview with The AdvocateÕs Kerry Eleveld, saying, ÒMy attitudes are evolving on?this.Ó
Numerous times since then, Obama and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney have been asked whether the presidentÕs position had yet evolved. With the Republican presidential race settling onto Mitt Romney, one national poll indicated the public didnÕt 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 Òdo a better jobÓ at Òdealing with social issues such as abortion and gay marriages,Ó 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 timeÑincluding news that the CIA had stopped a plot to blow up a planeÑthe mainstream media swarmed all over the Biden story. CNN media commentator Howard Kurtz wrote, in a blog, ÒThere is absolutely no question that BidenÕs 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.Ó MSNBCÕs news anchor Chuck Todd said the White House was being especially ÒsensitiveÓ about the remarks because Ògay money, in this election, has replaced Wall Street money.Ó
Interest in ObamaÕs position on same-sex marriage was in the news even prior to BidenÕs 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: ÒWhile 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. ThatÕs what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do — it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples — and thatÕs why the President does not support it.Ó 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.

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.