NYT: Obama’s Stance On Same-Sex Marriage ‘Evolving’

Coming out of the Netroots Nation panel discussion in which White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer implied that President Obama did not fill out a questionnaire in 1996 supporting same-sex marriage, The New York Times has published an article about the history of the public attitude Obama has taken on the issue. From the piece:

Obama Tracy Baim, a gay journalist in Chicago who interviewed Mr. Obama in 2004, remembers the candidate asking her to turn off her tape recorder so they could have a candid conversation on same-sex marriage. She said his objections were based on what he saw as realistic considerations: “I know what you want, I know what you can get.”

But when his Senate campaign moved into the general election against Alan Keyes, Mr. Obama told an interviewer for a black-owned radio station that religion was a factor.

Ms. Kaplan said she felt that Mr. Obama was either “pandering to Alan Keyes” or setting himself up to run for higher office; Ms. Baim, who said Mr. Obama had not cited his religious beliefs to her, viewed it as “a political maneuver.”

Barney Frank is quoted in the article, reveaing he has information that the President's public views on marriage equality are indeed a political strategicy.

And Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is gay, said in an interview that a top adviser to Mr. Obama, whom he would not name, asked him this year, “What would be the effect if he came out for same-sex marriage?”

“My own view is that I look at President Obama’s record, he was probably inclined to think that same-sex marriage was legitimate, but as a candidate for president in 2008 that would have been an unwise thing to say,” Mr. Frank said. “And I don’t mean that he’s being hypocritical. I mean that if you live in a democratic society, it is a mix of what you think the voters want and what you think is doable.”

Obama has referenced this "evolution" in the past, having told Americablog's Joe Sudbay last year that "attitudes evolve, including mine."

Yesterday, openly gay Congressman Jared Polis told the Huffington Post that Obama is "the best president this country has ever had on LGBT issues. [Gay Americans] have never had anything close to this much of an advocate in the White House in the United States."


  1. ohplease says

    Surely it can’t be a revelation to anyone that Obama’s marriage equality opposition — and his supposed religious “faith” — has always been a lie and a purely political calculation? Could it possibly have ever been any more obvious?

    The question is why did he make that calculation? Why did he think that he had to court bigots in order to win? That makes no sense; what bigot has ever voted for Barack Obama?

    Barack Obama does exactly what his corporate masters tell him to do and nothing else. The billionaires he works for are the only people who benefit from sowing needless discord among Americans.

    None of this is a surprise to anyone with two neurons to rub together.

  2. mld says

    and the peanut gallery loads more bullets to fire at their feet.

    i watched the trolls come around during the midterm elections and try to wedge gays away from progressives. but honestly, many of you dont need the pay-for-post trolls to convince you to vote against your interests. since when is the president a king? vote for policies, not politicians.

    when i read the ‘blah blah corporate this, corporate that’, ‘everyone is a shill’ wasted keystrokes, i see only an apathetic citizen checking out in order to excuse himself from any responsibility to fix what is broken. the government is not a man, it is us, and when you treat it like it isn’t, you get what you get.

  3. JonB says

    Anyone who is still complaining about Obama not being a good enough advocate really needs to take a step back and breath. He has pushed for several major pieces of legislation and signed numerous executive orders giving us far more rights than we previously enjoyed.

    This in the midst of the largest economic crisis we have faced as a country since the Great Depression and two wars or conflicts, or whatever they are… I’d say he’s doing a pretty good job, and if taking a politically safe point of view helps for the time being, so be it. He may claim to be evolving, but when asked about specific cases, in Maine for example, he is always against banning marriage equality, and he has ordered the justice department to stop defending the constitutionality of DOMA. I’d say he’s fairly evolved…

  4. says

    All those who insist that Obama is no advocate, when quite clearly he is the best advocate we will have in the White House until at least 2017, is foolish and short-sighted.

    The President is on public record saying that he is “evolving” on the issue. Of course that’s infuriatingly vague, when he could make a clear statement once and for all in favor of civil marriage equality, which is where he will end up. When you are the President, you don’t say you’re evolving on an issue and then move backwards, against the historical trajectory as set by the next generation, which is clearly in our favor.

    The question will be how quickly Obama can be moved to publicly support full equality. His former religious arguments make no rational sense in relation to a civil institution, and he knows it. Those of us without the big bucks to attend White House galas have to work within our limited political reach; those with the big bucks need to put the pressure on and make it clear that their financial support is dependent on him picking up the pace of his evolution. I wish I had more faith in the fawning gay moneymakers ability to lobby while they’re sipping their White House champagne. As soon as equality is seen as the politically smart thing to do, Obama and other weak-willed Democrats will be on board. (With the wingnut faction of the Republican party in charge, no serious national Republican candidate can get through the primaries supporting anything remotely pro-gay.)

    The only thing more stupid than squandering opportunities to get the President’s views in line with the accepted mainstream Progressive view on marriage is to hyperbolically dismiss the President as anti-gay, when quite obviously any viable alternative to Obama is truly anti-gay.

  5. JeffRob says

    I think he’s always held a respectable position, that pretty clearly was intended to appear to mirror the political-median American view on marriage equality all along, which has obviously been “evolving”. It’s just so cumbersome and kind of offensive that an individual would be claiming to evolve for so long on something like our basic equality.

    But still, at least he’s intelligent and open and honest about it. He reminds me of my dad, who’s incredibly level-headed and smart and who I’ve watched evolve on the issue myself. We can’t blame straight people for needing a minute to catch up. It’s not like they were raised being taught gay equality.

    Our president has my full support. Let’s just keep praying for the death of the Republican party.

  6. deedrdo says

    i have never supported a candidate or an elected official 100%. i understand president obama’s political calculus on marriage equality. while i have, at times, been frustrated with him i agree with Polis, he has been the best (and only president to support us) when it comes to LGBT rights. he’ll get my support and vote again.

  7. Pete n SFO says

    I’ve never drunk the “Obama Kool-Aid” but honestly, this administration has done more than any other. It is most definitely not on my schedule & it’s all a bunch of baloney, but you can’t say they’re not playing a smart game.

    The courts are coming along as well, often w/ the next challenge to Equality under the law. I’m SOooo tired of waiting, but it IS getting better.

    C’mon, New York; boy, do we ever need ya now!

  8. kc says

    Hopey hope hope Changey change change blah blah blahhhhhhh. He’s a politician who can’t be counted on to be anyone’s advocate, let alone OURS and let alone a fierce one. His fanboys need to let it go, and stop pretending that he’s ever going to “evolve” forward on equal rights while he’s in the White House.

  9. ratbastard says

    PLEASE ! The self described description ‘progressive’ just makes me laugh, along with many other people. ‘Progressives’ had to abandon ‘Liberal’ because they so badly trashed the liberal name over the past 40 years with goofy, BS social engineering, political correctness, etc.

    President Obama is a POLITICIAN. He suks up to whatever group / person he’s with or addressing, and has willingly thrown people under the bus to get elected to political office. Example: In the 90s he had to appeal to black Chicago voters, MANY of whom WOULD NOT appreciate him embracing gay rights [being statistically disproportionately VERY conservatively religious.] He acted accordingly.

  10. Mark says

    Obama says he does not support gay marriage but he also vocally opposes any legislation or constitutional amendment or popular referendum that seeks to ban gay marriage (calling these unconstitutional). This does not make sense: you cannot be against gay marriage and against bans on gay marriage the same time. It’s a contradictory position, a cheap shot at courting both the gay community and the much larger group of gay-hating white bigots. And guess what? It’s not fooling anybody. The white conservatives and other bigots aren’t buying it. Instead they see it for just what it is: a cheap shot at courting their vote. That aside, this block will never vote for Obama if he were to bleach every square inch of your skin. Obama needs to do what deep in his heart he truly believes is the right thing to do: come out in full support of gay marriage.

    I can bet my next paycheck Obama’s popularity would NOT go down if he were to publicly support gay marriage. People who don’t like him won’t like him no matter what he does. And the people who would vote for him might like him even more just for being brave and taking a firm, non-contradicting stance on an issue that most politicians either evade or flip flop on.

  11. JeffRob says

    It always kills me when people complain about politicians just “sucking up” to their constituencies. Right. That’s the way it works. Some politicians you agree with, so they suck up to you to make sure you vote for them. Some politicians trash you because they know you won’t vote for them and they want to ensure your enemy’s vote. It’s the way American politics works.

    So, support the one you agree with, dipshits. What they say is not shallow and devoid of all meaning just because they have to use words, and have to get you, and others, to vote for them.

  12. andypharmer says

    I agree that he has been the biggest advocate so far. People have to remember that he has to play a political game so that he can compromise and make some steps vs. making backwards steps by having people like Michele Bachman or Newt Gingrich come into office. Clinton was also an advocate. At the time, DADT was a compromise. It was a if you are gay you cannot be in the military before DADT. Anyways, not defending DOMA and repealing DADT are huge. With what I believe an inevitable decision by the courts to rule that prohibiting gay marriage is unconstitutional, the time will come. Maybe I’m too optimistic.

  13. MDK says

    If you can’t tell that Barack Obama is on our side, I don’t know what to tell you … it’s called strategy, people. Obama is a very smart person. He worked hard to get DADT repealed … he even conceded the extension of Bush’s tax cuts to the repubs so that other business (including the repeal of DADT could be voted on before the new wave of republicans got into congress.)

    For 228 years, this country had no gay marriage and no open service in the military. In the last 8 years have seen a number of states and DC legalize gay marriage and the beginning of open service for LGBT’s. Support for marriage equality is now the majority and the next generation of young voters is substantially more LGBT-friendly than my generation (I’m 29). The courts generally seem to be on our side, too. The next 12-15 years or so should take care of everything else that can be taken care of legally. This is the kind of thing that snowballs once it gets rolling … and boy has it gotten rolling recently.

    Lay off Obama … he’s doing a great job in a (still yet) hostile environment.

  14. Kyle Michel Sullivan says

    I stopped waiting for him to give a damn about anything that really matters to anyone other than Wall Street’s Gods and Goddesses years ago.

  15. ravewulf says

    “Obama is ‘the best president this country has ever had on LGBT issues.'”

    Just because he’s better than past presidents (who more often than not have been openly hostile to gay rights) on these issues does not make him great. It makes him decent.

    He’s been “evolving” for a long time now. Tell me when he actually changes.

  16. Sean R says

    What is so complicated about this issue? Saying that one’s view is “evolving” either means you haven’t considered it yet/ properly, you don’t understand equality or you’re just kicking the issue for touch… nope, not a fierce advocate. No worse than most other presidents, but not the change that was promoted. If his speeches about LGBT issues is anything like the waffle he pronounced in Dublin, then you need to look elsewhere. Clinton 2012 anyone?

  17. says

    “President Obama is a POLITICIAN.”

    Duh. No one gets to the White House without being a POLITICIAN (i.e. an ambitious centrist who swings left or right and doesn’t move an inch without considering the political consequences in the next election cycle). The dimwitted seem to believe that people actually get elected President by being non-politicians.

  18. Bill Perdue says

    @ mld – Not everyone is a shill and MLD is a very inadequate DNC shill. Leah Daughtry is wasting her money on you.

    Obama and the Democrats are the only ones who successfully “wedge gays away from progressives” and they do it by being consistent bigots.

    @mark – Stop lying. Obama sabotaged same sex marriage in California, Florida and Arizona in 2008 when he went before millions to bray his bigoted battle cry “gawd’s in the mix.”

    His very quiet and timid opposition to Prop 8 was a purely tactical opposition – he claimed that it was unnecessary because Bill Clintons DOMA was on the books.

    He galvanized bigoted catholics, southern baptists and mormons who ended same sex marriage and passed prop 8.

    Obama is a bigot. If he changes his mind hell be a closeted bigot.

  19. Chitown Kev says


    Actually in the 1990’s he had to appeal to HYDE PARK voters (think University of Chicago). Many of whom supported marriage equality even then. (Hyde Park voters aren’t necessarily gay but they are very liberal)

  20. vernon says

    @ Bill Perdue:”He galvanized bigoted catholics, southern baptists and mormons who ended same sex marriage and passed prop 8.”

    Dude what are you smoking? Your entire post does not make sense.

  21. RedCedar says

    @ JOMICUR | JUN 19, 2011 6:49:26 PM

    I’m not sure how many Americans understand how rarely in American history the (political) majority has been willing to confer to a political minority the rights the majority takes for granted.

    American women, who presently constitute a demographic American majority, STILL don’t truly have political parity, do they?

  22. Brad says

    What has Obama given the LGBT community:
    Ended DADT – nope! It’s still the law of the land and people are still being discharged. Fought through the Department of Justice to defend it, using right-wing misinformation.
    Marriage – nope! not even civil unions. In fact his Dept. of Justice defended DOMA up intil a few months ago.
    Ended DOMA – Nope! Still the law of the land.
    Introduced ENDA – Nope! still not even on the radar.
    Allowed federal employees to receive domestic partner benefits: Nope! His DOJ is still fighting hard to keep status quo in place.
    His administration is still fighting to cut benefits of soldiers discharged under DADT. He was for same-sex marriage, before he was against it, before he was for civil unions, before he started rewriting history that he never supported same-sex marriage. These are not the actions of an advocate. These are the actions of a deeply conflicted homophobe, who thinks that the value of LGBT citizens is marginal and unneccessary. Those of you who give him excuses are only feeding that homophobia. A few cocktail receptions at the White House and a few excecutive orders that don’t really change the status quo are not actions of advocacy, especially when you compare the amount of fighting against us, that his administration does.

  23. Brad says

    P.S. “better than Bush” is not enough of an excuse for me to want to vote for him. He should be the opposite of Bush as he campaigned falsely to be.

  24. RedCedar says

    This debate about whether President Obama is a sufficiently vigorous advocate of a culturally unwanted minority is not new. On the contrary, it’s as old as the United States of America.

    I am certain that this is what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was referring to when he said that the arc of moral history was long, but that it bent towards justice.

    For myself, as a gay, male, partnered (but not yet married), American of Obama’s age cohort (I’m just a year or two older), I freely confess to my share of frustrations with him, but not so much on gay rights. I am much more unhappy with his stances on warrantless surveillance of American citizens and on The President’s right to make war without seeking the approval of The Congress.

    I think that behind the scenes, where Obama has made changes that would not cause such an uproar in the Congress that anti-gay American legislation would be passed, he has been an admirable promoter of the equality of GLBT Americans.

    (No, he has not been perfect, but nonetheless.)

  25. Dazzer says

    I’m in Britain and I used to be incredibly happy that we had civil unions instead of marriage because a civil partnership was entirely gay/lesbian. It was something for us, rather than for everyone straight. it made us special.
    But then I thought more and read more and ‘evolved’. I changed my opinion. I listened to other people and weighed up what they said and accepted that I was wrong.
    There’s nothing bad about evolving. It’s something that should be celebrated.
    And even though I’m British, I’ve been observing American politics for enough decades to know that the US has never had a President who has done as much for gay rights as Obama.
    Seriously, if you’re going to slag off Obama, please point to any other US President who has done a better job? Screw that, point to any other serious, powerful politician who has done more.

  26. says

    Well put, Dazzer.

    If politicians/judges did not evolve (along with their constituents) there would not be marriage equality anywhere today. Yet evolution (even when it’s clearly in our favor) is dismissed–by the naive and/or disgruntled few–instead of encouraged when it comes to President Obama. The dismissal (not to be confused with justified criticism, which any President –and certainly Obama–deserves) would make more sense if there were more pro-gay Presidential candidates waiting in the wings, but they aren’t. You have to wonder who exactly the he-can-do-nothing-right people are going to vote for? Romney, Paul, make-believe Clinton, Palin? Or we can all stay at home and usher in 2010.12, the anti-gay Republican sequel.

  27. andnowwhat says

    dadt repeal has happened and will be complete this year. doma is no longer being defended on constitutional grounds. enda and marriage are the next steps. any candidate who believes in evolution (marriage equality or the darwinian kind) are deserving of our support.

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