The President Disappoints Again

In the wake of the historic ruling by Judge Vaughan Walker that found the California gay marriage ban unconstitutional because it denies gays and lesbians the due process of law and fails to meet the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, President Barack Obama, a self-professed constitutional scholar, has via David Alexrod, his senior political advisor, reiterated his opposition to gay marriage. What's even more bizarre, and frankly, offensive is that the President in the very next breath claims that he supports "equality" for gay and lesbian couples.

He does not. Unless you support gay marriage, you do not support full equality for LGBT couples. You cannot continue to attempt to straddle both sides of the gay marriage fence. It's a shameful act of political cowardice. 

From The Hill:

President Obama remains opposed to same-sex marriage despite a federal judge's decision to strike down a ban on such marriages, a top White House adviser said Thursday.

Senior adviser David Axelrod said the president supports "equality" for gay and lesbian couples, but did not address directly Obama's position on Wednesday's court ruling, which struck down as unconstitutional California's Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in the state.

"The president does oppose same-sex marriage, but he supports equality for gay and lesbian couples, and benefits and other issues, and that has been effectuated in federal agencies under his control," Axelrod said on MSNBC.

A line in the sand has been drawn. Either you are on board the equality express or you are just another derailment to overcome and toss aside. Fight for us and we fight with you; equivocate and we look elsewhere or stay home in 2012.

It is horrifying that the Administration is offering what is tantamount to a "separate but equal" treatment for gays and lesbians. It is not just unbecoming of the President to do so but it is a moral affront.

John Aravosis has posted an open letter calling on the President to support full marriage equality. It reads:

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to ask you to come out in support of full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.

In 1996, you were in favor of legalizing same–sex marriage. By 2008, your public position had changed.

“Separate but equal” is wrong. It’s time for you to do the right thing, and come out again for full equality for LGBT Americans.

We are on the march towards full equality. Please join us.

It bears reminding that on this issue, Barack Obama is perhaps the only person in the country who has gone in reverse. During his first run for elective office, Barack Obama told Outlines, a local Chicago paper since merged with the Windy City Times, that he favored "legalizing same-sex marriages would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."

In a January 2004 interview that Tracy Baim conducted with Obama at the Windy City Times, Obama clearly stated that lack of support for full marriage equality was a matter of strategy rather than principle. Still then when a candidate for the Senate, Obama wrote this in a letter to the Windy City Times:

As an African-American man, a child of an interracial marriage, a committed scholar, attorney and activist who works to protect the Bill of Rights, I am sensitive to the struggle for civil rights. As a state Senator, I have taken on the issue of civil rights for the LGBT community as if they were my own struggle because I believe strongly that the infringement of rights for any one group eventually endangers the rights enjoyed under law by the entire population. Since 1996, I have been the sponsor or a chief co-sponsor of measures to expand civil liberties for the LGBT community including hate-crimes legislation, adoption rights and the extension of basic civil rights to protect LGBT persons from discrimination in housing, public accommodations, employment and credit.

Today, I am a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Unlike any of my opponents, I have a legislative track record. No one has to guess about what I will do in Washington. My record makes it very clear. I will be an unapologetic voice for civil rights in the U.S. Senate.

For the record, I opposed DOMA [ the Defense of Marriage Act ] in 1996. It should be repealed and I will vote for its repeal on the Senate floor. I will also oppose any proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gays and lesbians from marrying. This is an effort to demonize people for political advantage, and should be resisted ... .

When Members of Congress passed DOMA, they were not interested in strengthening family values or protecting civil liberties. They were only interested in perpetuating division and affirming a wedge issue. ...

Despite my own feelings about an abhorrent law, the realities of modern politics persist. While the repeal of DOMA is essential, the unfortunate truth is that it is unlikely with Mr. Bush in the White House and Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress. ...

We must be careful to keep our eyes on the prize—equal rights for every American. We must continue to fight for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. We must vigorously expand hate-crime legislation and be vigilant about how these laws are enforced. We must continue to expand adoption rights to make them consistent and seamless throughout all 50 states, and we must repeal the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' military policy.

I know how important the issue of equal rights is to the LGBT community. I share your sense of urgency. If I am elected U.S. Senator, you can be confident that my colleagues in the Senate and the President will know my position.

Well, now is the time to act on those convictions. This is no longer a matter of strategy, it is a matter of principles as Judge Walker's decision has so clearly found. Leadership requires actually leading. That time has come. The President can be that unapologetic voice for civil rights or he can be just another politician that disappoints. That choice is the President's alone.


Tags: LGBT Issues, Gay Marriage, President Barack Obama, doma (all tags)



RE: The President Disappoints Again

There is, I think, a third side. It's not quite so with-us-or-against-us. There are also those, myself included, who would like to see government do away with marriage. Civil unions for all, gay or straight, and leave the m-word to whatever churches and private citizens will do with it.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-08-05 04:17PM | 1 recs
RE: The President Disappoints Again

I second this.  On a personal level, I am not married because the state granted me a license.  I am married because I stood with my wife and we declared ourselves a family, according to our families' tradition through our own interpretation of that tradition.  This was witnessed by our families and members of the various communities with whom we affiliate.  The state marriage license was nothing more than a registration for tax and legal purposes.  Had civil unions been available to us at that time, with all the rights and benefits of civil marriage, we would have taken that route.  

The question, however, is two-fold.  The first is ethical and the second pragmatic.  The ethical question is one that obligates me to support marriage equality under the concept "marriage."  If fellow citizens who are denied this term, concept, and rubric demand it, I am obligated to support them in this endeavor.  The second issue is more complicated.  What is the best and most rapid path to full equality?  If the abolition of legal marriage in favor of civil unions is the more pragmatic way to accomplish this, it's the best of both worlds as I think this is the ideal.  But as hard as securing the right of all Americans to marry appears, abolishing marriage seems even more difficult politically.  I support both options, whichever easier.  But in the mean time, the demand by those citizens who are excluded obviates this question.  For an analogy, as a dual citizen of Israel and America, I think the best long-term arrangement in Israel/Palestine is a one state solution, whether direct or confederated.  However, as long as a majority of Palestinians demand their own state as an avenue for national and cultural expression, I feel obligated to support this even if I ultimately disagree with particularist self-determination through the liberal nation-state.  The demands of those who are marginalized and excluded must be respected, particularly by those who are enfranchised.  As with the two state solution, so with gay marriage.  Solidarity requires both ethical and tactical consideration.

by Strummerson 2010-08-09 08:08AM | 0 recs
RE: The President Disappoints Again

Good, I'm not the only one that feels this way.  The government shouldn't be trying to facilitate holy matrimony

by Chuckie Corra 2010-08-11 12:51PM | 0 recs
I think it's a bit of an overreaction

The source for the first paragraph was from Politico, citing unnamed sources in the Administration. All of which reaffirms the President's position clearly stated during the primary and general election that he believes in Civil Unions. So this shouldn't be a surprise. While I do not share his belief on the issue of marriage, I find little fault with his slow but steady progress on LGBT issues (extending the FMLA act, ending DADT by the end of this year).

by NoFortunateSon 2010-08-05 04:27PM | 1 recs

he'll come around, if he isn't truly there already. There's little he can personally do for the cause. He's not in a position where he had to sign a bill legalizing marriage equality, as a governor would, and he opposes DOMA and opposed Prop 8.

He's where a lot of the early Democrats were with abortion; let the courts settle it and then we have a court case to back ourselves up. 

BTW, the White House did directly address the ruling, reiterating their opposition to Prop 8. 

by DTOzone 2010-08-05 04:30PM | 0 recs
We should separate the executive, judicial, and legislative branches

We need to remember the US Government is separated into Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches.

If you do, then you realize that so much of what the president is saying here is related to politics and has very little to do with the concept that LGBT Americans will or will not succeed in the current framework - to strike out for right of marriage.

This is why I am a political independent, to be honest. Partisan politics color the truth. But judicial politics are often straightforward and simple. Hey, that reminds me. Where is our resident judicial and constitutional blogger?


Is he studying for finals at Cal?


At any rate. Yeah. If the president said he supported marriage between space aliens and cute single women, it still wouldn't matter. This baby is going to the supreme court.


by Trey Rentz 2010-08-05 04:37PM | 0 recs
Charles are you surprised??

It's a controversial issue, a hot-button issue, and issue that requires leadership, so of course Obama will stay clear. Have you heard the NBC interview of Axelrod, his reasoning is this, Obama is against gay marriage, but he is also against voters weighing in against gay marriage. Tortuous logic? Pretzel logic? Yes to both. I would also add that this is a lame way of the President trying to have his cake and eat it too. I thought that having Ted Olsen fighting for gay marriage would give him enough "bipartisan" cover to come out for the ruling. Pity!!

by tarheel74 2010-08-05 09:13PM | 0 recs
RE: Charles are you surprised??

He tries to please everyone and in the process pleases no one.

There are now actually conservatives for gay marriage and yet Obama who in 1996 was for it is now trying to straddle a fence. It's a craven act of political cowardice.

by Charles Lemos 2010-08-07 12:35AM | 0 recs
right on

Thanks Charles. Obama's endless prevaricating on this issue is shameless and somewhat embarrassing. I am also embarrassed by those who defend such a shameful display by our President.  We will win the right to marry and Obama will be the wallflower.

by linfar 2010-08-06 06:16PM | 0 recs
RE: right on

His whole approach at times is baffling and maddening. He always wants to settle for half a loaf. Sometimes that may be the right approach but when it comes to minority rights half a loaf ain't gonna cut it.

The die is cast. Either you're on board now or you're just another obstacle.

by Charles Lemos 2010-08-07 12:39AM | 0 recs
RE: right on

he doesn't just settle for half a loaf. He often starts at half a loaf and then negotiates from there, giving more of the loaf away.


by jeopardy 2010-08-10 06:58PM | 0 recs
Keep it up, White House

kick us all in the nuts and tell us to like it, again.

by jeopardy 2010-08-10 07:40PM | 0 recs


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