The man comes around on marriage equality

So we just witnessed history.

This is something that had never happened before. And now it has. No sitting president had ever said this before. And now one has. Cool.

ABC News: President Obama Affirms His Support for Same-Sex Marriage

“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,” Obama told [ABC News’ Robin] Roberts in an interview.

… “It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” the president continued. “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, sexual orientation, that they 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.”

… “This is something that, you know, we’ve talked about over the years and [Michelle Obama], you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do. And that is that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better I’ll be as president.”

E.J. Graff:I Am Gobsmacked

Of course, there are many questions that the pundits will be flapping on about all week. … But I can’t think about any of that right now. Because apparently not everything in the world is politics, is it? Sometimes — just for a minute — politics is very, very personal.

… There’s something very deep about having your government declare you a stranger to its laws, defining your love as outside all respectable recognition. For my president to stand up and say that I should belong fully to my nation, that my wife and I should be considered as fully married as my brother and his wife — well, it reopens and washes out some very deeply incised sense of exclusion, a scar inflicted when, at age 15, I first panicked at the realization that I might be queer.

But not so queer, really, if even my president believes that my marriage is the equal of his. Politics tomorrow. Today is a good day.

Shep Smith: “I am curious whether you believe in this time of rising debt and medical issues and all the rest, if Republicans would go out on a limb and try to make this a campaign issue while sitting very firmly without much question on the wrong side of history.” On FOX News.

Andrew Sullivan:Obama Lets Go of Fear

So let me simply say: I think of all the gay kids out there who now know they have their president on their side. I think of Maurice Sendak, who just died, whose decades-long relationship was never given the respect it deserved. I think of the centuries and decades in which gay people found it impossible to believe that marriage and inclusion in their own families was possible for them, so crushed were they by the weight of social and religious pressure. I think of all those in the plague years shut out of hospital rooms, thrown out of apartments, written out of wills, treated like human garbage because they loved another human being. I think of Frank Kameny. I think of the gay parents who now feel their president is behind their sacrifices and their love for their children.

The interview changes no laws; it has no tangible effect. But it reaffirms for me the integrity of this man we are immensely lucky to have in the White House. Obama’s journey on this has been like that of many other Americans, when faced with the actual reality of gay lives and gay relationships. Yes, there was politics in a lot of it. But not all of it. I was in the room long before the 2008 primaries when Obama spoke to the mother of a gay son about marriage equality. He said he was for equality, but not marriage. Five years later, he sees — as we all see — that you cannot have one without the other. But even then, you knew he saw that woman’s son as his equal as a citizen.

Rob Tisinai: Obama Opens the Yellow Brick Road

Obama can claim another civil rights first. He hasn’t just broken the color barrier — he’s opened the yellow brick road.  He’s giving back, repaying the fighters and activists of previous generations who made his own election possible, so that now, somewhere, in a tiny little no-name corner of the nation, a bright and talented gay kid has suddenly realized: I can be president.

David R. Henson:Obama, Marriage Equality and the Political Ploy of Liberation

No matter how politically motivated his endorsement of marriage equality may be, Obama still did what no other president has done, what very few politicians have done.

He endorsed marriage equality without equivocation.

Don’t let the political timing of his announcement limit the recognition that this is a profound moment of justice and liberation coming not from activists but from the highest office in our country.

For once, the voice of liberation is the voice of the President.

Tony Jones:Obama Gets Off the Pot on Gay Marriage

Many will write this off as yet another political ploy — an attempt to re-ignite young voters next November. It may do that, or it may backfire — this may turn out to be Obama’s Jimmy Carter moment.

Regardless of the politics of it, the significance will long-lasting and far-flung, for it’s difficult to imagine anything that would do more to normalize homosexuality in our culture than this.

Kudos, Mr. President.

Samuel Smith:When followers lead, the leaders will follow

As I said last night, losing on Amendment One was a temporary setback, the lost battle that sparks us to win the war. Today, thanks to the passion and the righteous outrage of so many millions of Americans, Mr. Obama has finally accepted that to lead, he must follow the will of the people and stand for what is right.

Make no mistake. May 8 was a dark day for civil rights in North Carolina, but May 9 marks one of our biggest victories yet. It’s now up to us to lead the president to more important realizations.

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  • <Dr. Claw&rt;Eeeeeeeeeeexcellent. HoohoohoohahahahahahAHAHAHA.</Dr. Claw&rt;

    Srsly, though, I’m happy Obama finally plumped for same-sex marriage, 100%.  I think the writing was on the wall when Biden waded in and said yep in no uncertain terms*.


    * Though the Washington DC commentariat ended up causing the lily-livered PR hacks in the Administration to rush out  a press release with that “Biden is just evolving his thinking, trufax, people”. *rolls eyes*

    Whatever happened to people like Teddy Roosevelt who called a cow a cow instead of a bovine manure producer?

  • AnonymousSam

    Posted this in a previous thread, but now that it’s officially the topic:

    Open palm, insert face.

    (A later edit) Oh hell no, Fox News. You do
    not get to revise history. Here’s
    what it said when I first opened the page.

  • Morilore

    Pretty cool.  I wonder whether Biden’s comment was the fumble that forced Obama’s hand, or if Obama had Biden make that comment to test the waters, or if these two comments are completely unrelated to each other.

  • Matri

    Oh hell no, Fox News. You do
    not get to revise history.

    I saw that coming a year ago. Seriously, my opinion of them is so low, they would have to unleash a zombie apocalypse headed by the Founding Fathers for my opinion of them to improve to “scum of the earth”.

  • Tybult

    if Republicans would go out on a limb and try to make this a campaign issue while sitting very firmly without much question on the wrong side of history.

    Again: Duh.

    Did he miss the primary season? Did he miss the Two-Month Hate for the repeal of DADT? Rabid opposition to gay marriage isn’t a position that they’re thinking about adopting.  
    Bachmann’s hubby runs clinics that promise to cure you of The Gay, and Santorum doesn’t even think straight people should be having sex. They hate gay marriage and the gays who want to marry right now.

    We’re talking about the party that wants to shut down Planned Parenthood, believes global warming is a hoax, and wants to cut billions of dollars in food stamps to make sure we can pretend to pay for a new war in Iran.

    ETA: I suppose my last paragraph is a non-sequitur, so let me add: Being on the wrong side of history is the Party Platform. William F. Buckley boldly stated this decades ago.

    Also, why does the edit window have to be so small?

  • Emcee, cubed

    What you are saying is true, but this:

    if Republicans would go out on a limb and try to make this a campaign
    issue while sitting very firmly without much question on the wrong side
    of history.

    is not the important part of that story.

    This is:

    On FOX News.

  • Wish our PM would follow suit…

    *is wistful*

  • MatherZ

    I’ve been reading all sorts of commentary since his comments broke that Obama’s position is purely politics-based, that he’s doing it for votes/money/youth-motivation, that he knows it’s a toothless position to take, all this stuff.  And we can argue about whether taking this position is actually toothless, or if he’s actually going to lose votes/money by alienating those who disagree with him, all that stuff, till the cows come home.

    But none of that matters, because HE’S RIGHT. And he’s the first person with his level of clout to be right on this question. And maybe there’s a part of him in there somewhere that is still thinking about the question, but I don’t care, because he’s come out and said it, and it can’t be un-said.

    He thought about it, and came up with the right answer.  He even showed his work.
    Full marks.

  • Matri

    Just so long as he gives proper credit to the ones who made all this possible: The Republicans & religious right.

    That’s right, the right-wing. Without all of their hard work campaigning to proselytize their brand of religious hatred into politics, Obama would never have been able to make his statement.

    Because there would have been no need to.

  • I’m not all that surprised, because I think that Obama is fundamentally a decent man, and in this situation, you can make a decision that supports human rights for all of America’s citizens–rights which in no way harm or inconvenience anyone–or you can be a bigot (which is the opposite of being a decent person).

  • John Harland

    I’m not sure where you live, but if it’s the UK:

    “And to anyone who has reservations, I say: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative. ” – David Cameron

    If I understand correctly, he caught a lot of flak from his party for this, and has been forced to back down on the issue.

  • Nope, I’m in Australia, where our female, atheist, living-with-her-lover Prime Minister is against marriage equality because she has “traditional values”. Or something.

  • QXZ
  • If I understand correctly, he caught a lot of flak from his party for this, and has been forced to back down on the issue.

    Yeah, the right wing of the Tory Party decided a vague commitment to gay marriage was what cost them so many seats in the local elections, and not the utter mess they’ve made of everything they’ve touched since coming into government. What kind of fantasy land do you have to live in to think that gay marriage is more a vote loser than leading the country back into recession?

    ETA: But commiserations to Deird nonetheless. Cameron may be surrounded by idiots and bigots, but at least he was willing to stand up for equality.

  • So let me see if I have this right…after spending years and years mulling it over, the President of the United States has finally decided that he is personally – though not officially – in favor of human rights.

    Er, yay?

    Okay, I understand that even that much is historic, and yes, tepid and ineffectual as it may be, it’s still a very good thing, but seriously, overall it’s fucking depressing.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah…arc long, towards justice, etc. but… just…fuck.  Just once, just one goddamn time, I would like to see even the slightest hint of Obama being the most librul President evar that Fox News keeps telling us he is.

  • Tonio

    Latest news in the “War on Marriage”: the FBI is arresting wedding cake makers and holding them for
    questioning, and “Say Yes to the Dress” has been banned from cable and
    satellite systems nationwide. Next, hordes of gay insurgents will
    descend on schools nationwide to teach boys how to talk like
    Nathan Lane and Tim Gunn.

  • ako

    let the political timing of his announcement limit the recognition that
    this is a profound moment of justice and liberation coming not from
    activists but from the highest office in our country.

    This.  I’ve seen a lot of people talk about the timing as an act of political calculation, and I do think there’s a point there.  Nevertheless, this is an important part of things getting better.

  • LouisDoench

    I have always felt that Obama was too timid on this (and several other) issues that we dirty commie pinko’s hold dear, but  if Bill Clinton had shown  this much courage 20 years ago, so much would have changed for the better by now. This is a good start.

  • John Small Berries

    Unfortunately, one sentence from the ABC article that you chose not to quote reveals his pronouncement to be little more than an empty gesture:

    “The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states’ deciding the issue on their own.”

    In other words, “I support marriage equality, but only until the point where enough people decide they want to outlaw it.” Marriage equality is not a right, therefore, but an arbitrary privilege to be granted or withheld as majorities see fit.It’s especially disappointing coming from a man whose own family, for the first few years of his life, was illegal in one-third of the United States – because until Loving v. Virginia, anti-miscegenation laws were considered an issue of states’ rights.


    I’ve seen a lot of people talk about the timing as an act of political calculation, and I do think there’s a point there.  Nevertheless, this is an important part of things getting better.

    The people who complain that this was purely an act of political calculation really confuse me.

    I mean, OK, let’s assume for a moment that coming out in support of marriage equality is something that the President of the United States did, not because he thought it was right, but purely because he thought it was politically expedient to do so.

    Let me say that again: let’s assume we live in a world where the President of the United States coming out in support of marriage equality is a politically expedient thing to do.



  • EllieMurasaki

    Mission not fucking accomplished. I still can’t marry another woman in my state–we do have civil unions here, but civil unions are not good enough–and I sure as hell can’t marry another woman and have it be recognized by every state in the Union. The President said he’s personally comfortable with marriage equality; woohoo. Important symbolic gesture achieved. But he also said it should be a states’ rights issue, which means he’s not going to DO jack shit about achieving marriage equality on a federal level, and I don’t belong to a religion that considers symbols important in their own right.

  • As a QUILTBAG person myself, I appreciate the frustration you feel. I remember being eye-rollingly annoyed at the way the provincial government of the day had to resort to politically acceptable legal subterfuges to allow same-sex couples to adopt children*, or the struggles we had in the 1990s to get provincial governments to ban discrimination at the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation (Alberta was one of the holdouts, IIRC).

    But ultimately, the fact that the American President said anything positive about same-sex marriage, in particular when he’s a legal scholar and more aware of the nuances of the legal weight hidden behind his opinions (which IMO led to him qualifying his statement the way he did), is a hella breakthrough. His successor in waiting has come out foursquare for it, too, so that’s also a nice boost.

    Look, 20 years ago, if you’d asked me if I’d see anything even approaching same-sex marriage in my lifetime?

    I’d have LOLed.

    The fact that it has happened in my country, Canada, and has been accepted for years now, is enough to still bring a bit of a lump in my throat.

    Change is hard to see when we’re in the middle of it, but it does come. The key is to never stop pushing for it, one thing the Republicans have, unfortunately, learned all too well given the way they’ve managed to wreck the notion of the welfare state in a generation.


    * The law was rewritten to allow single adults to adopt; since same-sex couples were not given legal status of common-law, never mind actual marriage, the law effectively let them adopt too.

  • christopher_young

    The Times (The Rupert Murdoch and London paper of that name) published a short piece today which was all about how this announcement was going to really help David Cameron, because when people saw that his position of supporting gay marriage (which he has now shelved for reasons of political expediency) was backed by “one of the most radical US Presidents”, they would realise that he’s not such a reactionary bugbear after all.

    I laughed; I wept.

    And kudos to Obama for finally finding his guts wherever he’d hidden them after the inauguration. 

  • I have to concur with IN.  Yes, this does not have legal weight behind it, and yes, our country is not as equitable to non-heterosexual marriage as we would like it to be.  However, Rome was not built overnight.  We have been achieving many small victories, in addition to a few small setbacks (which we can end up twisting to our favor) and slowly but surely the scales tip in our favor.  

    I do not want to sound condescending when I stress patience, certainly it would be nice if things went a little faster, but things are going, progress is being made, and at the rate we are going, we will see full equality in the next decade or so. 

    Stay the course, we are on the right track, and the sun on the horizon is looking bright.   

  • Tricksterson

    I would go with choice B.  If it hadn’t been received well it could have been put down to Biden’s famous propensity for  the Double Footed Mouth Leap.

  • Tricksterson


    Driving a stake through DOMA’s rotten heart?

  • This is excellent news!

  • Lori


    Just once, just one goddamn time, I would like to see even the slightest hint of Obama being the most librul President evar that Fox News keeps telling us he is. 

    I’ve decided* to just be happy about Obama coming out for marriage equality, but I can’t argue with this at all. If he were half as Liberal as Fox claims he is he’d be a shoe-in for the Top 10 list of best presidents ever.

    *It really is a decision. I recognize all the reasons why some people feel differently about it and I even agree with some of them. However, between this and ending DADT I think it’s worth focusing on the upside of this one.

  • LL

    Yeah, I think Sheppard Smith isn’t gonna be working for Fox News for much longer. He apparently has too much common sense. 

  • LL

    And I agree that as nice a symbolic gesture as it is, it doesn’t mean THAT much. If the states continue to deny people civil rights based on the beliefs of ignorant, self-described Christians, Obama can affirm same-sex marriage every day for the rest of his presidency, it won’t make a difference to people who have to live under freedom-destroying state law.

  • Lujack

    I’m of the opinion that symbolism means a lot.  I mean, look at Dwight Eisenhower on civil rights in the 1950’s.  He actually accomplished some important things (Little Rock, Earl Warren on the Court) but never gave the rhetoric out.  So the bigots got to feel that the president of the United States was on their side and the civil rights people felt he was against them.

    Symbolic gestures give movements momentum-LBJ saying “We shall overcome” mattered, even JFK calling Martin Luther King in prison mattered, since it sends the message that things are moving in the right direction, even if only slowly.  It also leaves us in a position where if Obama has said this and then wins…it gives him a mandate to move more quickly in prospective term #2.


    Obama can affirm same-sex marriage every day for the rest of his
    presidency, it won’t make a difference to people who have to live under
    freedom-destroying state law

    Would you be equally indifferent if he’d said “Well, personally I believe marriage is and ought to be a relationship between a man and a woman, but I also believe states have a right to decide this for themselves”?

  •  You miss my point.

    If you’d told me ten years ago that in 2011 the US would be such that coming out in support of marriage equality would be a politically expedient thing for a US President to do, I’d have laughed, but I would consider achieving that state something well worth doing.

    If we’re all suddenly agreeing that we’ve achieved that state (I’m skeptical, myself), well, it follows that we’ve achieved something significant.

    Whether the President actually comes out in favor of it or not isn’t what matters, on that view. What matters is that we’ve (on that view) altered the world to such a degree that doing so is expedient.

  •  Word.

  • I understand, and honestly, I don’t mean to lessen the enthusiasm that people feel about this – especially not the enthusiasm of the people most directly affected by it.

    And I do recognize it as an important and historic step, especially given some of the actions the administration has taken, such as the repeal of DADT.  And I’m definitely not finding fault with anyone who is happy about it.

    But with such a timid and noncommital statement coming on the heels of what happened in NC, I just can’t personally bring myself to feel much enthusiasm, and I can’t help wishing that the goddamn arc would just bend a little fucking faster.

  • Emcee, cubed

    Marriage laws have, from the beginning of US history, been under the purview of the states. Any attempt to change marriage laws at the federal level have either been other pressures brought on a state/territory to change their laws (polygamy), or from SCOTUS rulings (Interracial marriage). Even DOMA doesn’t infringe on the state’s jurisdiction over marriage laws, it just says that other states don’t have to recognize them. (This may go against the Full Faith and Credit clause of the US Constitution, but it hasn’t been tested yet).

    So I can’t fault Obama for saying that, it’s true. I suppose he could have said I think that all states should legalize SSM, but it also wouldn’t have had any weight. There is very little Obama can actually do on this issue, and what he can, he has done. He’s dropped the defense of DOMA in court. He’s appointed Justices who are likely to vote in favor of SSM when he’s had the chance. He’s given what benefits he can by executive order. The only thing he hadn’t done that I can think of, was his actual public support of full marriage equality. And now he’s done that as well.

    And please remember that Obama DID come out against Amendment 1 in NC prior to the vote. The issue before NC voters was not legalizing SSM, but ingraining the illegality of it into their state Constitution. I’m not sure that doing this interview (and it was an interview, not a speech, so it wasn’t the venue for his “preach and speech” orating he is so good at) prior to the vote would have changed much of anything.  I’d love to see a more impassioned speech by him on the topic at the Convention, but we’ll see…

  • friendly reader

    For everyone  feeling not-as-enthused about the President’s affirmation, Rob Tisinai’s been discussing the same feeling over at Box Turtle Bulletin; check it out, it’s interesting reading.

    Meanwhile, another good link on why even symbolic gestures can have meaning:

  • It’s perhaps worth pointing out that there are Federal entities that affect couples even in states that allow same-sex marriage.

    For example, I can file my state taxes as “married filing jointly” but I cannot file my federal taxes that way.

    I don’t know what specifically the POTUS can do about that, but it certainly isn’t a state issue.

  • Emcee, cubed

    Very true. That is a DOMA issue. Specifically Section 3 of DOMA which has been found unconstitutional by (I think) 3 courts, and which is the section Obama and the DoJ are refusing to defend.

    But DOMA is not a marriage law, it is a law about marriage, if you see the difference. States decide who can get married in their states, and what the requirements are. The federal government didn’t say SSM is illegal in the US because that would have usurped that power from the states. What they said was even if you are married, we won’t recognize it. Yes, it is almost only a semantic difference. But if they hadn’t defaulted that jurisdiction to the states, it is likely SSM wouldn’t be legal anywhere in the US.

  • P J Evans

     a zombie apocalypse headed by the Founding Fathers

    You know, I’d like to see that. I’d like to see Washington and Jefferson and Franklin and Madison and Adams going after the people at Fox.

  • P J Evans

    Well, it might bring back the ERA as a real possibility. I want the Constitution to say that everyone is equal under the law, and have that be not just a dream.

  • I’d like to see Mercy Otis Warren, Abigail Adams, and every single then-slave go after Fox. 

  • Matri

    I’ll buy the popcorn.

  • Lori


    I can’t help wishing that the goddamn arc would just bend a little fucking faster.  

    I’m with you on this too. This is an issue that causes a very real split reaction for me.

    On one hand I’m having a reaction similar to Dave’s. It wasn’t that long ago that I honestly didn’t expect to live to see marriage equality. It wasn’t that long before that when marriage equality wasn’t even on the “pie in the sky” list because it wasn’t an idea people talked about at all. We really have come a very long way in a short time in historical terms. Most of the work on Civil Rights for African Americans happened before I was born. Many of the victories in the fight for women’s equality happened when I was too young to be aware of them (although obviously I’ve got a good view for the rematch we’re forced to fight now). I grew up with a set of assumptions about what was possible in my life that are completely different from the ones my older sister grew up with, not to mention my mom. QUILTBAG rights is the fight that gained its victories during my adult years and that makes it really noticeable to me.

    On the other hand I look at the campaigns for Prop 8 and Amendment 1 and DOMA and the full-on freak out some people had about the repeal of DADT and on and on and on and all I can say is, “What is wrong with these people? What century are they living in that they still think this way?” So, change is not coming fast enough. When it comes to ending discrimination it never does.

    Part of the reason I’ve decided to just be happy about this is that, unlike quite a few other topics I worry about, I think victory on this issue is now inevitable.

  • +1 for Obama, but really, you should stop being so complimentary about Obama and the Dems. They look good compared to the Republican crowd. Wow, what an achievement. 

  • I think that one can praise politicians for doing the right thing while still urging them to do better. “The perfect being the enemy of the good,” etc.