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President Obama Suggests He is Evolving on Marriage Equality

(official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Yesterday I posted about the meeting President Obama had with progressive bloggers, one of whom was Americablog's Joe Sudbay. Sudbay last night posted a more complete transcript of their conversation.

Here's an interesting bit on same-sex marriage:

Q So I have another gay question. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: It’s okay, man. (Laughter.)

Q And this one is on the issue of marriage. Since you’ve become President, a lot has changed. More states have passed marriage equality laws. This summer a federal judge declared DOMA unconstitutional in two different cases. A judge in San Francisco declared Prop 8 was unconstitutional. And I know during the campaign you often said you thought marriage was the union between a man and a woman, and there -- like I said, when you look at public opinion polling, it’s heading in the right direction. We’ve actually got Republicans like Ted Olson and even Ken Mehlman on our side now. So I just really want to know what is your position on same-sex marriage?

THE PRESIDENT: Joe, I do not intend to make big news sitting here with the five of you, as wonderful as you guys are. (Laughter.) But I’ll say this --

Q I just want to say, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you this question. 


Q People in our community are really desperate to know.

THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s a fair question to ask. I think that -- I am a strong supporter of civil unions. As you say, I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage.

But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine. And I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships. I have staff members who are in committed, monogamous relationships, who are raising children, who are wonderful parents.

And I care about them deeply. And so while I’m not prepared to reverse myself here, sitting in the Roosevelt Room at 3:30 in the afternoon, I think it’s fair to say that it’s something that I think a lot about. That’s probably the best you’ll do out of me today. (Laughter.)

Q It is an important issue, and I think that --

THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s an entirely fair question to ask. 

Q And part of it is that you can’t be equal in this country if the very core of who you are as a person and the love -- the person you love is not -- if that relationship isn’t the same as everybody else’s, then we’re not equal. And I think that a lot of -- particularly in the wake of the California election on Prop 8, a lot of gay people realized we’re not equal. And I think that that’s -- that’s been part of the change in the --

THE PRESIDENT: Prop 8, which I opposed.

Q Right. I remember you did. You sent the letter and that was great. I think that the level of intensity in the LGBT community changed after we lost rights in that election. And I think that’s a lot of where the community is right now. 

THE PRESIDENT: The one thing I will say today is I think it’s pretty clear where the trendlines are going.

Q The arc of history.

THE PRESIDENT: The arc of history.

There are two more questions from Sudbay on DADT over at Americablog Gay, and a transcript of the entire session on the main Americablog site.

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  1. hope

    Posted by: eb | Oct 28, 2010 7:45:35 AM

  2. At least Bush had the decency to keep us out of the WH altogether

    Really, I don't see the point of this meeting. A conservative could just as easily read the transcript and say, "Wow! Obama invited those fags in the White House to say to their face that he believes they are unequal and that maybe he'll change his mind one day, but not today."

    He is using us to appeal to conservatives. He's no better than any other politician (say Palladino) who uses the political charge of gay equality to his own advantage.

    Posted by: Guest | Oct 28, 2010 7:59:02 AM

  3. BHO will never fully accept LGBT folks.
    It isn't in his nature. His right of center political leanings are an anathma
    to this viewpoint. Folks believed what they wanted to hear from him from the beginning.

    Posted by: nick | Oct 28, 2010 8:08:39 AM

  4. Regarding: (official White House photo by Pete Souza)

    What a terrible photo. I hate the composition.

    But it does reflect the White House's same lack of composition regarding anything gay. Distant and oddlly angled.

    Posted by: Odd Perspective | Oct 28, 2010 8:11:04 AM

  5. Not that he said it here, but I never understand when a politician, who are suppose to separate church and state, says I don't believe in gay marriage because of my religious views, but on the subject of abortion, they're ok on it. What religion supports abortion?

    Posted by: Name: | Oct 28, 2010 8:23:50 AM

  6. The whole meeting was a publicity stunt organized by a panicky White House and some Democratic Party stooges in the gay rights movement. Joe Sudbay is a dork and doesn't represent me in any way, shape or form.

    Posted by: jason | Oct 28, 2010 8:45:44 AM

  7. You know, I'm tired of Obama and others always pulling out this "arc of history" line. It's bullshit. If you look over the the entire course of the history of the human race, very, very few trends are born out. Not even population growth, since at one time we were almost extinct, down to about 17000 from some still unknown event. It is a rhetorical instrument to avoid personal responsibility by postponing difficult decisions into the far distant future. It would be just as accurate to say that the long arc of history shows that we will have war and famine, and that eventually the earth will be burned to a cinder by the sun.

    Posted by: Mike | Oct 28, 2010 8:50:50 AM


    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 28, 2010 9:16:18 AM

  9. I think Obama evolved to the idea that continuing to screw us over was going to hurt during the election. So, he decided to give us some more lip service with no follow through--because that has worked for him before. Well, I have evolved in my thinking and now believe we should have elected someone else as President.

    Posted by: Leto | Oct 28, 2010 9:19:44 AM

  10. Obama is a homophobic disgrace. He is a cowardly pathetic excuse for a president. I will not vote for him again. His lack of leadership and his opportunistic bigotry is shameful and disgusting.

    Posted by: Martin Murray | Oct 28, 2010 9:21:23 AM

  11. I don't believe for a second he's evolving.

    This is a PR stunt to get votes from disappointed GLBT voters on Tuesday.

    How dumb does he think we are?

    Posted by: DR | Oct 28, 2010 9:23:14 AM

  12. Interesting interview, but it just confirmed what I already suspected: the only thing we're getting out of this White House is lip service.

    Posted by: Chuck | Oct 28, 2010 9:48:00 AM

  13. and Obama remains the ONLY progressive against gay marriage.

    And just last night he was taking about how many dems in the house voted their concious and to get re-elected next week. And how BRAVE they are. Be he's refusing to do the same! I'd rather have equality than have Obama as president. Man up, Barack! Do the right thing!

    Posted by: tom a | Oct 28, 2010 10:30:32 AM

  14. You mean, the polls are evolving? Then so shall he.

    Posted by: miKem | Oct 28, 2010 10:47:54 AM

  15. Gross - in other words, as soon as the polls indicate widespread public backing so will I.

    Posted by: mike | Oct 28, 2010 10:51:13 AM

  16. He has "cried wolf" too often. He was pro-gay marriage when it helped him get elected in Illinois, against it when it wanted to become President.

    That's the only arc of history that is relevant here.

    Posted by: justiceontherocks | Oct 28, 2010 10:55:20 AM

  17. "The one thing I will say today is I think it’s pretty clear where the trendlines are going."
    Then it also seems clear how he'll be viewed by history on the issue.

    Posted by: jtaskw | Oct 28, 2010 11:08:44 AM

  18. How convenient - to evolve your views right here at election time.

    Posted by: Shane | Oct 28, 2010 11:29:05 AM

  19. What kind of interviewer keeps interrupting the President while he's trying to finish a sentence, Good Grief.

    When he says "I think it’s fair to say that it’s something that I think a lot about" he means "I'll change my opinion once i've left public office"

    Posted by: grego | Oct 28, 2010 11:39:06 AM

  20. Oh, I see his views "evolving." Sometime around Fall 2012, don't be surprised when he says, "Well, I'm still against gay marriage, but there's this arc of history thing in front of me, and if you put me back in office in 2012, my views against gay marriage might budge a little bit, so much so that I'll give you a few more pretty speeches about how much I really, gosh golly and darn, want you to have equal rights, but governing is hard."

    And we'll still have nothing.

    Posted by: MrRoboto | Oct 28, 2010 1:14:31 PM

  21. The "fierce advocate" President is more conservative than Dick Cheney on gay marriage. Log Cabin Republicans have done more for DADT than Obama.

    Crazy world.

    Posted by: Rik | Oct 28, 2010 1:30:43 PM

  22. Let's not forget his views on marriage equality have "evolved" before -- from supporting it to get into the State House, to opposing it to get into the US Senate. I have no doubts that if the trendlines continue, he'll "evolve" again, because it will be untenable to oppose marriage equality for the Democratic Party, but that's probably only going to be when marriage equality is supported by 70-80% of the country.

    Posted by: Ryan | Oct 28, 2010 1:57:31 PM

  23. All these damned Republicans ARE NOT IN OFFICE AND ARE NOT RUNNING FOR OFFICE. But when they were, they were 100 times worse than Obama.

    How can gays forget this?


    When in office they do everything they can to be re-elected. When out of office they can say what they really think because it doesn't matter - because they are not seeking re-election.

    Prior to becoming President - when he was a legislator in the Illinois State Legislature and in the United State Senate he consistently voted in favor of gay rights. The other thing is that Obama is on record for being for 'everything but [the word] marriage' His position on civil-unions is all rights as marriage but not named marriage.

    I am not a politician because I could never take this non-committal politically expeditious semantic role on human rights. I think it is egregious.

    However, progress toward the goal is better than the party that literally wants to legislate gay people out of existence is RIDICULOUS.

    All these gays that would either abstain or vote against Obama in the next election will be guaranteeing a stagnation of the gains that have been made at best and a partial reversal at worst.

    Remember the same Republicans have ACTIVELY worked against human rights and equality for gay people directly on these issues:

    comprehensive age-appropriate sex education
    anti-bullying bills
    Employment Non Discrimination Act
    civil-unions and domestic partnership laws
    hate-crimes legislation
    domestic HIV/AIDS Strategy
    high school gay-straight alliances
    hospital visitation rights
    United States Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage

    Posted by: Ross | Oct 28, 2010 10:19:49 PM

  24. If you read the president's answer, it is clear that he's going to wait for everyone else to handle marriage equality for him. He's not going to change his public opinion. That's why he's relying on everyone else's change. What's wrong with 3:30 in the Roosevelt room? It's as good a place as any other to do the right thing.

    Posted by: Randy | Oct 29, 2010 2:02:36 AM

  25. Abortion is not in the bible... marriage is. So thats where the "religious views" are coming from.

    Posted by: Cecilia | Oct 29, 2010 11:03:19 AM

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