President Obama Endorses Marriage Equality

05.09.2012, 3:24 PM

From an ABC News interview:

I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point 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.


It’s interesting, some of this is also generational. You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same sex equality or, you know, believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.

I admit, I’m a bit surprised to see him do this before the election (although perhaps he was cornered by Biden’s recent statement of support for SSM). Also, he’s still saying that this should be an issue decided by each individual state, not by the Federal government (a view I agree with, but only because I think it’s strategically the best approach for now).

Although the fight will continue mostly unchanged, this is still a landmark in the history of lgbt rights. Someone on my twitter feed (can’t find it now, so paraphrasing) wrote, “for the first time in my life, I have a President who thinks I should be fully equal.” That’s valuable. As David said in another context, we’re a bit more American today than we were yesterday.

17 Responses to “President Obama Endorses Marriage Equality”

  1. Chris Gable says:

    George W Bush Solic. General Ted Olson: “Today is a proud day for all Americans…President Obama’s words show that marriage and equality are universal values.”

  2. Chris Gable says:

    Btw, civil unions failed in the Colorado State Senate last night on a procedural move to not allow a vote, even though it had the votes to pass. It has passed the Democratic controlled Colorado House several years in a row.

    The GOP did the same thing in CO last year.

  3. Matthew says:

    The Colorado governor is going to call a special session of the legislature to consider the civil unions bill, so it is not completely dead.

  4. JeffreyRO5 says:

    Bravo, President Obama! This is the man I voted for in 2008. He has courage and is demonstrating leadership. Sure, he’s calculated the political fallout, and feels certain it won’t cost him the election. But he didn’t have to do this at this particular time.

    I love how the anti-gays are crowing about North Carolina, conveniently failing to mention that they had to hold their referendum during the Republican primary vote, rather than during the general election, to be sure it would pass. You know your days are numbered when you worry about passing a marriage discrimination amendment in the Bible belt!

  5. John says:

    Without the public support of the President, lobbying of the celebrity community and the millions of dollars from who knows where, this issue would not be as prominent as we are currently seeing. In my opinion, President Obams’s body language/non verbal communication shows that he is still struggling with the idea and has deep reservations. He is coming forward now because he needs all the help he can get to be reelected in 2012. President Obama did not say much on lgbt issues until the latter half of his term. Why? Because this is not his issue. I respect him as President but disagree with his views and think the timing smells of an election year stunt…

  6. Matthew says:

    John is very poorly informed. The President has spoken over and over during the last two years about gay rights generally and marriage in particular. He said in 2010 that he was “evolving” on the issue. He also instructed the Justice Department not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. The DOJ has since gone from not defending DOMA but actively intervening in the DOMA cases on the side of gay rights groups seeking to have DOMA ruled unconstitutional. My reading of the President’s body language is that he is now free of the burden of having to pretend he doesn’t support marriage equality in order to pacify a handful of evangelicals whose votes he might lose. Of course, he has calculated the political consequences of his announcement. He is, after all, a politician running for re-election. He has decided that he will benefit from taking an honest stand in favor of same-sex marriage because the majority of the nation has reached the same conclusion that he has: it is right and just that we have equal rights in this country. He may even agree with David Blankenhorn that the day marriage equality is achieved in this country, we will all be more American.

  7. John says:

    Matthew appears to be a little zealous about President Obama’s reluctant support of gm…

    In politics, timing is everything. President Obama has the most dedicated team of planning professionals that I have ever encountered. The bulk of what he has done (in the past 3 years) has been thought out, well planned and executed flawlessly. Th gm announcement was timed to garner the most support possible from the lgbt community. This issue did not surface before healthcare, banking or education reform. It surfaced at a time where his own statisticians are informing him that if he does not shore up his constituency, he may indeed be a one term President. He did not make the announcement with a gay couple on air. Nor did he have his wife with him (since this is for the family). He made the call himself alone because he understands the risk he is taking. I believe he has made a grave miscalculation. The majority of the country does not support SSM. In North Carolina (recently) and the failure of the lgbt community to sway Californian voters (the courts intervened) prove that in the South and arguably the West, the issue is not as “sure” as you are making it. Most people do not support the idea. They just won’t say anything like I will.

  8. Here’s some interesting speculation — although all it is is speculation, of course.

    Compared to 2008, Obama’s weakest voting group is actually young white voters. According to Gallup, Romney actually leads Obama by 3% (43-46) among 18-29 year old whites, a huge reversal from Obama’s 54-44% edge four years ago.

    In this light, Obama’s decision to embrace gay marriage becomes more strategic. While I doubted whether there were many voters who Obama could sway with support for gay marriage, these numbers suggest that I was wrong. By all accounts, gay marriage is more popular among 18-29 year old whites than any other age group, and certainly more than 44% of young whites are in favor. If Obama’s support for gay marriage can persuade socially progressive Obama 08′ supporters to return to the Obama camp, there’s actually much more room for Obama to gain from gay marriage than one might initially suspect.

  9. JeffreyRO5 says:

    “The majority of the country does not support SSM. In North Carolina (recently) and the failure of the lgbt community to sway Californian voters (the courts intervened) prove that in the South and arguably the West, the issue is not as “sure” as you are making it. Most people do not support the idea. They just won’t say anything like I will.”

    It appears that a majority of the country DOES support same-sex marriage (I’m not afraid to spell it out and I don’t even use scare quotes!). Various polls seem to bear this out.

    Prop 8 passed in California because the National Organization for Marriage and the Mormon church aired advertisements that were patently false, but frightened a lot of parents. Prop 8 would not pass today, I strongly believe. The religionists have always resorted to lies in order to frighten voters, or tap into their homophobia. Of course, the notion that a majority should vote on the legal rights of a minority is profoundly un-American.

    Ultimately, the federal courts will decide whether it’s ok to deny a minority equal legal rights. The people can vote all they want, but the courts will have the last say. And the usual suspects will demonize the judicial branch of government, in a fashion most most despicable.

  10. Keep in mind, as well, that there’s a difference between what most Americans believe (which is what polls measure), and what most voters believe. Because older people are far more likely to vote than younger people (among other demographic differences), elections are not a representative sample of Americans in general.

    Which is, you know, fair enough; elections belong to those who vote. But eventually the demographic trends seem to make SSM inevitable.

  11. Chris Gable says:

    Barry, The issue remains of whether a “fundamental right” (SCOTUS has used this language to describe entering into a civil marriage and having that marriage recognized by the state in 14 (!) separate decisions in the last 60 years.) should be put to majority vote in a state, particularly, as in Prop 8, an existing right.

  12. Matthew says:

    The country is badly divided on the issue of SSM geographically. Every state in the South now has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The campaign in North Carolina in favor of Amendment One was so religious-centered that it may be challenged in federal court. But in any case, if it were left to Southern states there would be no gay rights at all. Period. The sodomy laws would remain on the books. Gay bars would be raided or simply put out of business. There would be no protection against discrimination in employment, housing, or any other area. Luckily, however, the US Constitution covers even Southern and plains states like Oklahoma and Kansas.

    As far as Obama’s political calculation: he knows that he has no chance of winning most of those states. He may well win North Carolina, however, since a disproportionate number of votes against same-sex marriage in that state came from African Americans, who are not going to abandon Obama because he supports marriage equality. So his endorsement of same-sex marriage will not harm his chances in the Southern swing states of North Carolina, Virginia, or Florida.

    Obama’s support of same-sex marriage will raise the enthusiasm level of his supporters in the states that he does need to win to replicate his 2004 victory. His position will be strengthened even more as Romney will be challenged over and over on his opposition to any recognition of same-sex couples.

  13. JeffreyRO5 says:

    We have become a very sad nation if “doing the right thing” (treating gays and lesbians the same legally as straight people) is seen as some kind of political ploy. I remain baffled that equal legal rights for all citizens, something expressly adopted in our national constitution, is a politicized issue. But then, I live in Michigan, where our governor has suspended democracy in certain jurisdictions. So anything’s possible!

  14. Chris Gable says:

    Well, here, is something encouraging for equality-minded people and perhaps even some “people of good will”. Andrew Sullivan and Politico report on new political data and advice from a leading GOP pollster, Jan van Lohuizen of Voter Consumer Research (the man who did the polling indicated Bush could profit from amendments banning marriage and civil unions on the ballot in 2004 has found an America vastly changed –only 29% of Republicans don’t back either marriage equality of civil unions, which mean that’s the position of only about 20% of Americans and dropping), saying in a very blunt terms that the GOP needs to change on gay marriage/relationship recognition/gay rights very quickly.

    In view of this week’s news on the same sex marriage issue, here is a summary of recent survey findings on same sex marriage:

    1. Support for same sex marriage has been growing and in the last few years support has grown at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down. A review of public polling shows that up to 2009 support for gay marriage increased at a rate of 1% a year. Starting in 2010 the change in the level of support accelerated to 5% a year. The most recent public polling shows supporters of gay marriage outnumber opponents by a margin of roughly 10% (for instance: NBC / WSJ poll in February / March: support 49%, oppose 40%).

    2. The increase in support is taking place among all partisan groups. While more Democrats support gay marriage than Republicans, support levels among Republicans are increasing over time. The same is true of age: younger people support same sex marriage more often than older people, but the trends show that all age groups are rethinking their position.

    3. Polling conducted among Republicans show that majorities of Republicans and Republican leaning voters support extending basic legal protections to gays and lesbians. These include majority Republican support for:

    a. Protecting gays and lesbians against being fired for reasons of sexual orientation
    b. Protections against bullying and harassment
    c. Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
    d. Right to visit partners in hospitals
    e. Protecting partners against loss of home in case of severe medical emergencies or death
    f. Legal protection in some form for gay couples whether it be same sex marriage or domestic partnership (only 29% of Republicans oppose legal recognition in any form).

  15. hello says:

    Chris, that may be so but you have to remember that although a lot of straights may not be against gay marriage they are also not in favor of it enough to make it a decisive factor in their vote. The people in the media who are firm against SSSM or highly in favor of it don’t represent the majority of ordinary straight people for whom this is not a very important issue. Whether the average hetero voter is either mildly in favor of SSM or mildly opposed most of them are more concerned about jobs, education gas prices etc. than gay marriage and if they think leaders who oppose SSM will have better economic, education, and energy policies they will vote for them. SSM may be a wedge issue in the media but it will not matter as much on election day.

  16. Chris Gable says:

    I agree “hello”. The vast majority of straight people just don’t care much about who gets a marriage license to marry whom.

    But this pollster is suggesting that the overarching GOP stance (by politicians) against gay rights/civil unions/DADT repeal is toxic to the GOP brand. And is disfavored even by majorities of GOPers. And yet when DADT repeal, for instance, came up for a vote, just 5 of 170 Republicans in the US House voted for it.

    Civil Unions in Colorado state House of Representatives were killed this week on a procedrural move by GOPers (they control the House by one seat) even though 20% House GOPers had already voiced support for them (and CO has a marriage amendment, so there is no credibly “slippery slope argument) and 70%+ of Coloradans favor civil unions.

    This is the NOM-take-no-prisoners position that this pollster (and to their credit DB and EM in their News-Observer piece) warn against.

    I doubt this will be heard at all, let alone seriously considered by the 20% of America who believe in neither marriage nor civil unions.

  17. Matthew says:

    Re Colorado civil unions: Governor Hickenlooper has called a special session of the legislature to vote on the civil unions bill. It is not dead.