Roger Ebert Weighs in on Obama, Ken Mehlman, and Gay Marriage

In a diary post, Film critic Roger Ebert writes about his history with gay people and Obama's baffling position opposing marriage equality, placing it in the context of administrations past, and his own life.

Writes Ebert, in part:

Ebert Now the idea of gay marriage is much before us. They've been made legal in some states. They are fiercely opposed, most often on religious grounds. Politicians find it prudent to play to both sides of the street by saying they "have no opposition to civil ceremonies." I'm disappointed in Obama for taking that approach. He supports the civil rights but opposes gay marriage while citing his church's teachings.

At least you can't accuse him of catering to his base. I would have preferred that he'd added that a religious marriage is a matter for each church, but that the state should make no distinction in the matter of a civil ceremony.

Some politicians are held hostage by their bases. The Bush administration is thought to have been the most homophobic in recent history. In 2004, George W. Bush endorsed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages. This was backed by anti-marriage forces seeking a way to negate the actions of individual states in legalizing gay marriage.

But let's look more closely at his administration. Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter, and a year ago he made a statement in support of same-sex marriages, adding that it should "traditionally" left up to each state. Even at the time, he declined to get on board, only observing that it was "administration policy." We learned earlier this year that Laura Bush supports the right to gay marriage. Now we learn that Ken Mehlman, head of the Republican National Committee during that time, who spearheaded the fight for the constitutional amendment, is gay.

I heard on NPR today that an interviewer for the Atlantic asked Mehlman what Bush's reaction to his news was. Mehlman replied that some days before he made his announcement, when rumors of it were circulating in GOP inner circles, George Bush reached out to him and offered help and encouragement. I was touched to learn this. Now we have to wonder: If that's the way Bush, Cheney and Mehlman thought, why was the administration's anti-gay agenda being pushed?

Was it because it seemed like a popular policy at the time? Was it playing to the party's southern evangelical base? Whatever the reasons, we now know that the word has gone out to the GOP's 2010 candidates to soft-pedal opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage. Public opinion is perceived to be shifting on the topic. It seems odd to me that on this issue, Barack Obama is more conservative than Dick Cheney, George Bush and my mother.

In the Chapel Bells are Ringing [Roger Ebert]


  1. says

    Many years ago I read Edmund Burke’s “A Letter/Speech to the Electors of Bristol”.
    If I remember correctly he made the point that he was elected for his judgement, not to follow every trend in public mood.
    When was the last time any politician read Edmund Burke ?
    They vie with each other to be more red neck……instead of trying to lead public opinion ,they whip it into a frenzy, helped by such eternal traitors such as Mehlman.

  2. Martin Murray says

    It really is horrifically shocking that the 1st Black President of the United States is opposed to civil rights for gay people. He is an utter disgrace!

  3. Rowan says

    Geez, this guy isn’t very bright is he? H completely missed the stupid link? Cheney and Bush are not in power!!!! And when they were, we all know what they did!


  4. r says

    don’t think for a moment they won’t use it against him with their base.

    there’s absolutely NOTHING they won’t do to win

  5. John says

    I think the surgeon missed his cheeks and chin in the face-lift. This man looks utterly ridiculous.

  6. ATLSteve says

    That’s Roger Ebert of Siskel & Ebert?

    WTF happened to him? When did he become a 75 y.o. lesbian?

  7. HawaiiBill says

    He’s recovered from surgeries dealing with thyroid cancer, cancer of the salivary glands and has had part of his jaw removed after dealing with complications from the diseases.

    Yet he would still probably forgive you for your comments about his appearance.

  8. comstockload says

    “I’m disappointed in Obama for taking that approach. He supports the civil rights but opposes gay marriage while citing his church’s teachings.”

    It’s even more disappointing when you consider that the last church Obama belonged to was part of the United Church of Christ. The UCC’s were the first denomination whose teachings officially endorsed gay marriage!

  9. Gregoire says

    Most of you are uneducated idiots and should shut the fuck up.

    Roger Ebert had CANCER. Do you people not read newspaper or, at very least, watch Oprah?

    Thank you Roger for speaking out, in your rational, plain-sense, practical manner.

  10. Rowan says

    @ Nic

    I read what he said. Are you senile? You live in the most unliberal and open minded Western country.America will never have a president for gay marriage.

    It’s fascinating but some of the laws you guys are able to get away with may as well be some middle eastern country but because their are so many sociopaths in your country, it’s called freedom of speech. I mean whe in the frigging world can you get a supposed enlightened country saying that Obama’s government is socialist????

    What do you guys smoke and why are you all so proud of it??

  11. Swine says

    I think what Roger is saying is ain’t it shitty that all these dickwads — Bush, Cheney, Mehlman & Bush’s wife are now supportive when it means absolutely nothing. When they were in a position to really help, not only didn’t they help, they denounced us & crushed us in a way that will hurt gays for decades. They’re all monsters & Bam isn’t so much better. He’s justifying his homophobia w/religion.