Cross-posted at Motley Moose.

A Chicago Gay and Lesbian newpaper, the Windy City Times, has unearthed a candidate issue survey written by then Illinois State Senate Candidate Barack Obama in 1996.  What is notable about this document is what has changed.  Take a look at number 6:


"6)  I favor legalizing same-sex marriages,and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."

When I heard this news, I wasn't angry or surprised.  I was reminded of a story that from the primary campaign.  This isn't the first time Obama 1996 had a disagreement with Obama 2008.  In December 2007, Politico reported that Barack Obama had taken "unabashedly liberal positions" on a questionnaire he filled out while running for the Illinois State Senate in 1996.  The premise of the article was that his "far left" positions could damage him in the general election:

Regardless, the blunt statements of his earlier views, preserved on a questionnaire he filled out for an Illinois voter group that later endorsed him, would allow a Republican opponent to paint him as being way to the left of the nation's electorate on questions that have historically been potent wedge issues.

A week after Politico requested a comment, the Obama campaign responded by saying that a campaign aide, not then candidate Obama, had filled out the questionnaire.  His campaign manager from the 1996 campaign confirmed that she had filled out the questionnaire.

Four months later, in March 2008, we learned that the campaign's December 2007 explanation wasn't entirely accurate. Politico received an amended copy of the questionnaire with notes on the front page written in Barack Obama's handwriting.  His new excuse was even more creative:

Through an aide, Obama, who won the group's endorsement as well as the statehouse seat, did not dispute that the handwriting was his. But he contended it doesn't prove he completed, approved -- or even read -- the latter questionnaire.

"Sen. Obama didn't fill out these state Senate questionnaires -- a staffer did -- and there are several answers that didn't reflect his views then or now," Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama's campaign, said in an e-mailed statement. "He may have jotted some notes on the front page of the questionnaire at the meeting, but that doesn't change the fact that some answers didn't reflect his views. His 11 years in public office do."

So he was handed a voter questionnaire and all he did was jot some notes on the first page about his endorsements.  He didn't even flip through the questionnaire to see how his aide had characterized his views.  What the campaign did not explain at the time, was why the questionnaire had been amended:

Consider the question of whether minors should be required to get parental consent -- or at least notify their parents -- before having abortion.

The first version of Obama's questionnaire responds with a simple "No."

The amended version, though, answers less stridently: "Depends on how young -- possibly for extremely young teens, i.e., 12- or 13-year-olds."

Let's assume that then-candidate Obama as soooo busy doing fundraisers and traveling across his district and holding rallies and doing TV interviews to fill out his own candidate issue forms.  Let's assume that his campaign manager did all of that for him (and in the aforementioned case, she changed her mind about parental consent for teenagers seeking abortion).  And let's assume that then candidate Obama was too busy with his hectic campaign schedule to read what he was signing.  

Two problems:

First, the results of THIS survey were published in what was then called Outlines Newspaper.

Outlines newspaper, as with the new Windy City Times, surveyed candidates for all levels of elected office, and also reported on the results from pro-gay and progressive groups. We summarized the results in that 1996 article by Trudy Ring, but did not list exact answers to questions. In that article Outlines did note that Obama was a supporter of same-sex marriage; that article was never challenged or corrected by Obama.

Now it's possible that then candidate Obama was too busy traveling his district to read what the newspaper reported about the candidate survey, but there is another problem.  Another candidate survey for IMPACT, then Chicago's main GLBT political action committee.  Unlike the aforementioned surveys, which were typed, this survey was completed by hand.  Take a look at question 7.


Do you support the Marriage Resolution, a statement of support for the right of same-gender individuals to marry:

"Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual personal choice,

RESOLVED, the state should not interfere with same-gender couples who [choose] to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of civil marriage."

If you do not support the resolution, will you at least oppose any attempts to outlaw same gender marriage and/or to ammend reciprocity agreements with states which permit same-gender marriage?  Will you oppose any federal initiatives which attempt to over-ride certain state laws which allow same-gender marriage?

Obama's hand-written response:

I would support such a resolution.

Obama flip-flopped.  Big deal.  He's a politician.  Politicians do that.  Those of his supporters who understand the nature of politics won't be fazed by this.  Those who think he walks on water are probably looking for evidence of a Clinton or PUMA conspiracy or they're looking for a way to rationalize the contradictory statements.  Those of us on planet Earth are wondering what Barack Obama really believes about gay marriage?  Which candidate expressed his accurate views on the topic--Obama '96 or Obama '08?  More importantly, now that he's won the election, is he going to flip back?  I'll sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation of his decision.

(Via Ben Smith)

Tags: Barack Obama, Gay Marriage, gay rights, pandering (all tags)



obama 96.

maybe im wrong, but i think there is a dance that most lefties in the US need to do because of the rights constant demonizing all things 'liberal.'  certainly - it seems that most dems are forced to 'tack to the center' to make themselves more palatable.  

really - my hope is that the blogosphere can take this back and allow politicians, and the left movement to take back liberalism in all its glory.

by canadian gal 2009-01-13 05:29PM | 0 recs
LIBERAL is a dirty word? WTF!
Conservatives got us into Iraq.
Conservatives got us into this financial mess.
Conservatives ruined America's image in the world.
Conservatives refuse to acknowledge the climate crisis.
by psychodrew 2009-01-13 05:35PM | 0 recs
Eight years vs. Thirty

The failures of conservatism have not made people associate positive things with the term "liberal", even though they may find the substance of liberal positions attractive, the label itself still carries bad baggage.

Plus, most people don't blame conservatism generally for those things, they blame Bush specifically.  Dems, including and especially Obama, have not done much to connect Bush's screwups with conservatism more generally.

by JJE 2009-01-13 06:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight years vs. Thirty

I don't feeling like looking it up, but your post is factually wrong as I remember regarding polling data. It's true there has not been a huge shift, but there is a shift from wanting describe oneself as conservative.

by bruh3 2009-01-13 07:02PM | 0 recs
I didn't mean to suggest

that things had remained absolutely static.  However, after looking into it (admittedly just one data set) I was surprised to see that things had barely shifted from 2004 to 2008 in CNN election-day exit polling, and the percentage of self-identified conservatives is precisely the same:

2004: Lib 21/Con 34.

2008: Lib 22/Con 34.

by JJE 2009-01-13 07:26PM | 0 recs
Re: I didn't mean to suggest

Well we are actually getting into a hornest nest here. The truth is far more complicated than either us are explaining. The labels are one thing, but then getting into the positions and then stil the partisan break down is even more. It's a mess. so I will defer to you since I am just going off memory.

by bruh3 2009-01-13 07:32PM | 0 recs
I agree

exit election polling where people are just asked to say whether they are liberal or conservative is not the greatest basis for broad statements.

by JJE 2009-01-13 08:07PM | 0 recs
You're both right.

On one hand, the "liberal v. conservative" split looks the same. But on the other, there's been a remarkable "progressive shift" on the actual issues. It just seems like people are still afraid of the "liberal" label, and hopefully the next 8 years of Democratic government will calm those fears.

by atdleft 2009-01-14 07:00AM | 0 recs
Re: You're both right.

And that's why liberals should wear the label proudly. It's time for us to redefine the term "liberal" in the American mindset and media so that everyone want to jump on the liberal bandwagon. Then we'll really be able to push through our liberal/progressive agenda with much less resistance.

by LakersFan 2009-01-14 08:07AM | 0 recs
Re: obama 96.

In some ways, liberalism has been a failed movement in the U.S.  Not specifically because of policy, but because of the failure to actually implement liberal ideas (and claim them as such) plus a spate of liberal leaders being asassinated in the 60s.  I've heard it said that the last truly liberal piece of legislation was passed in the 1930s.  Sure, we have many of the fringe benefits of liberal society, i.e workman's comp, unemployment benefits, minimum wage, social security, medicare, medicaid.  But the general story has been a few big liberal ideas (Roosevelt, Johnson) followed by decades of erosion of these liberal ideas.  I think our stances on women's rights and gay rights, while not on par with parts of Canada and Europe yet, are still more liberal than most of our economic & military policies.

The thing that bothers me is that now people have adopted this "progressive" language, which I don't disagree with per se, but it feels like conceding defeat that the U.S. will ever be truly liberal.  

by the mollusk 2009-01-14 08:46AM | 0 recs
Re: "Change"

Hmmm... can't sugarcoat it and why should anyone? IF THIS REPORTING IS TRUE! He did not have the courage to stand by his opinion.

does not make him any more or less of a potential great president. time will tell but you can't give up on a human or judge him solely by a single discretion  or because they obfuscate once. But, like I said... he gussied out on this one opinion and that's that of it.

On second thought, would I be to far from claiming that- there are many more like him , who in their hearts have no issues with gay marriage but just not the political will to stand by it?

by MumbaiBurns 2009-01-13 05:44PM | 0 recs
Great point.

who in their hearts have no issues with gay marriage but just not the political will to stand by it?

by psychodrew 2009-01-13 05:53PM | 0 recs
Don't sound surprised...

i'm not

Obama flip-flopped.  Big deal.  He's a politician.  Politicians do that.  Those of his supporters who understand the nature of politics won't be fazed by this.  Those who think he walks on water are probably looking for evidence of a Clinton or PUMA conspiracy or they're looking for a way to rationalize the contradictory statements.

Well put but expect to be called a puma psychodrew

by zerosomgame 2009-01-13 06:09PM | 0 recs
I've been called worse.

The other day, a friend of mine observed a female colleague flirting with me and he said, "You are a bit straight-acting."

I was so offended.

by psychodrew 2009-01-13 06:14PM | 0 recs
Re: I've been called worse.

That's harsh.  At least he didn't call you straight-curious!

by Steve M 2009-01-13 06:19PM | 0 recs
Re: I've been called worse.

with "straight acting' still being in vogue amongst some gay folks your dance cart must be full

by bruh3 2009-01-13 06:51PM | 0 recs
Re: I've been called worse.


by Denny Crane 2009-01-14 09:32AM | 0 recs
Re: I've been called worse.

That's not even the first time I've been called that today.

by psychodrew 2009-01-14 10:20AM | 0 recs
Meh. He was running for a liberal seat.
expect him to look substantially more liberal then, as to now, when he has to represent the entire country.
Some things he may be biding his time on -- like the gay marriage issue. If there's enough pressure from the states, then something will happen at the federal level. In the meantime, he can take a moderate position and try to move the overton window.
NOT a big deal. It's Strategery.
by RisingTide 2009-01-14 06:24AM | 0 recs
Frankly, who cares,

as he's better for gays than John McCain would have been as President. For God's sake, we have an inaugural coming up, the end of an error is nigh, and some are sitting here whining about stuff, which frankly, was gonna be on the political backburner anyway. I'd like to see gay marriage legalized, but I think everyone expected mainstream political candidates to not be for "gay marriage.

by Lakrosse 2009-01-13 06:17PM | 0 recs
You are absolutely right.

It is better for us to ignore inconsistency and hypocrisy and just be thankful that we are allowed to say his name.

by psychodrew 2009-01-13 06:23PM | 0 recs
Re: You are absolutely right.

That's the spirit, Soudruh Psychodrew.

I have recalled our letter to the Central Committe outlining your dangerous behavior.  You have been rehabilitated.

p.s.  Don't let it happen again.

by moscow 2009-01-14 03:51AM | 0 recs
Why is this HR'd?

I thought it was funny.

by psychodrew 2009-01-14 04:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Why is this HR'd?

Fair question.  Do you find this funny?

by Steve M 2009-01-14 05:55AM | 0 recs
Nope. Not funny at all.

I didn't see that comment.  

by psychodrew 2009-01-14 06:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Nope. Not funny at all.

There are quite a bit of homophobes in the mix here.

These are the people who think they are the "friends" of gays:

"First, I'm against so called gay marriage. Why? If I have helped to revolutionize the church  (in my own way) and I've contributed to the cause of gay people - why am I against gay marriage. The answer is simple: its because those who were leading the charge were working for social change with no real or tangible benefit to the vast majority of American citizens. And the people of America had other things on their minds - the activists  knew this. And ignored it. It was simply the wrong time.

The gay community is productive, creative, generally higher income and by and large a nice thing to happen to your neighborhood if you're lucky enough to have it happen to you."

http://www.mydd.com/story/2009/1/12/2027 17/359

It can get worse. The point is- just because they here does not mean they aren't bigots. There are a many many bigots here who  really want to use any opening to pretend gay rights are not important.

by bruh3 2009-01-14 07:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Nope. Not funny at all.

if you're lucky enough to have it happen to you.

Maybe this is a little off-topic (and little personal for MyDD).  But there was a time when I felt like I was cursed because I was gay and would do anything to 'change' it.  But I've now reached the point that if somebody offered me a pill to become straight, I wouldn't do it. I'm so satisfied with the man I've become I consider myself lucky.  And being gay is only a small part of it.

by psychodrew 2009-01-14 10:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Nope. Not funny at all.

It's hard to be a hated minority with all the shit that society puts you through without being a little fucked up in the begining about it. If you said you were okay with it at first, that would shock me more.

The reality is that people are kicking you in the balls each day, and tellin gyou to walk it off like nothing just happened.

So yeah, I get that. There is nothing wrong with admitting that. That's the kind of honestly that makes it easier for other people to understand. Well, some. Others will simply use it as a way to try to destroy you.

by bruh3 2009-01-14 01:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Nope. Not funny at all.

But yes, you are right.  It has astonished me how many are openly hostile to the gay community.

by psychodrew 2009-01-14 10:19AM | 0 recs
i fall to the left side of liberal

and expect to be disappointed by all of our two party government elected persons. obama is a better politician than i will ever be. americans are not ready for a revolution... even after eight years of facism. anti gay props passed in several states that went blue.

i am willing to take a wait and see approach to this presidency. he has so far made good on his promise to be inclusive with his cabinet appointments (though certainly not to satisfy me).

oh yea... and he's not even the president yet, so maybe its too soon to be biting your wrists.

breathe in
breathe out

by citizendave 2009-01-13 06:47PM | 0 recs
And which part are you surprised by?

That Obama, deep in his heart, supports gay marriage? He's a UCC, after, all, and they've long had the lead within christianity when it comes to gay civil rights?

Or that he won't stand on those beliefs publicly? C'mon, this is the USA and Obama is a smart politician. You choose your battles, and he's decided that this isn't the battle to fight.

As for 'change', if we can merely change from an incompetent neocon administration to a competent center-left one, I'll be more or less happy.

by PhilFR 2009-01-13 08:11PM | 0 recs
Re: And which part are you surprised by?

I'm surprised that you missed this line:

When I heard this news, I wasn't angry or surprised.

by psychodrew 2009-01-14 01:28AM | 0 recs
I just don't see flip-flop

What he said in 1996:

"I favor legalizing same-sex marriages,and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages,"

What he said about Prop 8, this year:

"That is why I support extending fully equal rights and benefits to same sex couples under both state and federal law. That is why I support repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, and the passage of laws to protect LGBT Americans from hate crimes and employment discrimination. And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states."

In the case of "marriage" he's now saying "fully equal rights and benefits to same sex couples" which is at worst parsing. A flip flop would be opposition to gay marriage.

In the second case, of "defense" I see complete consistency.

Obviously some very intelligent people see a reversal here, so I'm not trivializing it. I can only muddle by on what's apparent to me.

by Neef 2009-01-14 05:06AM | 0 recs
Well, I can.

Now it is true that much of this is just the usual "nuance" that top Democratic pols engage in. After all other Presidential candidates, like John Kerry & Hillary Clinton, have also "parsed" their language on marriage equality. Still, what Obama has done has to qualify as a "flip-flop" in my book.

Why? Today, he refuses to say "the m word". But 13 years ago, he didn't hesitate to simply say that he believes in marriage equality. He says today that civil unions are AOK, but 13 years ago he understood that there's no such thing as "separate but equal".

Perhaps Obama had to do this to win the Presidency last year, lordy knows that queer people & atheists are still allowed to suffer open bigotry in this nation. But hopefully once he takes office, he'll realize that this injustice is just too great to ignore... And no "separate but equal" quick-fix can solve this.

by atdleft 2009-01-14 07:07AM | 0 recs
I understand your point

It's a subjective, semantic issue. For me, being for the war, then against the war is a flip-flip. Or, being for drilling then against drilling. I see those as flip-flops.

If you're for drilling one day, and the next you are for "a supervised program of targeted petroleum resource exploitation", I don't see a shift in philosophy. This latter case is where I see the Obama marriage issue. In addition to his statement about fully extending equal rights, Obama supports repealing DOMA, and it's difficult to reconcile that with opposition to gay marriage:

That is why I support extending fully equal rights and benefits to same sex couples under both state and federal law. That is why I support repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, and the passage of laws to protect LGBT Americans from hate crimes and employment discrimination. And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states.

I do understand that the word "marriage" itself has become the hotbutton for many, but I am one who believes that the end goal is what counts. Obama's words, then and now, lead me to believe that he will a) work towards a resolution of gay marriage, and b) will support no opposition to it (which is confirmed by the above quoted text).

Until I believe that his position has changed, and I see no evidence it has, I can't in good conscience simply call "political phrasing" a flip-flop.

by Neef 2009-01-14 07:49AM | 0 recs


by Concern Troll 2009-01-14 07:05AM | 0 recs
This just proves that he is Cinton II

Like Clinton he has no backbone!

by Joshuagen 2009-01-14 10:31AM | 0 recs
So, are you upset at something?

So we've learned that through circumstantial evidence Obama is more than likely pro-gay marriage based on previous statements compared to later obvious tacking to center for expediency; and has openly expressed his desire to take down DOMA and DADT, and here we are complaining about  politcal expediency?

If anything, it appears his real thoughts on gay marriage have been revealed.

Honestly, I think the LGBT community, people who support equal rights, along with the rest of the country, are going to thank Obama for his use of expediency in getting to the White House.  

by KLRinLA 2009-01-14 11:00AM | 0 recs
Did you miss this line?

When I heard this news, I wasn't angry or surprised.

by psychodrew 2009-01-14 11:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Did you miss this line?

Yeah, I may have read some comments and meshed it into your diary, and was responding to a lot of hand wringing, hence my confusion in teh face of what we know about Obama.  I realize none of us can state with certainty what Obama's beliefs truly are, but all indications are a go  

Well let's hope Obama '96 + Obama '08 = equal rights for all

by KLRinLA 2009-01-14 11:26AM | 0 recs
this is worth sharing here

from courage campaign

Dear Friend,  

I have some big news.

More than 50 labor organizations, representing more than 2 million Californians, have submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the three major lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Prop 8.

Organized labor is the most powerful single political force in California. With major labor organizations like the California Labor Federation going on record with the state Supreme Court favoring equality for all, the movement to restore marriage equality to California just got a tremendous boost.

But that's not the only exciting news related to same-sex marriage rights and the California labor community.

To help us build a well-trained grassroots army to repeal Prop 8, our labor movement friends at United Healthcare Workers (UHW) and the California Nurses Association (CNA) are also stepping up to help us fund Camp Courage trainings across California. UHW and CNA have pledged to contribute $5,000 each if we can meet our $25,000 Camp Courage Challenge by this Friday, January 16.

We don't have much time. So far, we've raised $14,639. To make this mission-critical match, we need to raise $10,361 by 11 p.m. on Friday. Please donate $25, $250, $2,500 -- or whatever you can afford -- before time runs out on this urgent Friday night deadline:

http://www.couragecampaign.org/CampCoura geChallenge

by citizendave 2009-01-14 11:52AM | 0 recs


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