Did President Obama Endorse Gay Marriage Last Night?

HRCOBAMA-300x243 President Obama was urged this week to come out for gay marriage in his address to the Human Rights Campaign. He didn't do so last night - not explicitly. But did he imply it? Toward the speech's end, he cited New York's marriage law as a triumph of democratic change. Might that be an indirect way of saying, "I'm with you on marriage"? 

It’s progress led not by Washington but by ordinary citizens, who are propelled not just by politics but by love and friendship and a sense of mutual regard. It’s playing out in legislatures like New York, and courtrooms and in the ballot box. (...) It happens when a father realizes he doesn’t just love his daughter, but also her wife.

It's disappointing that the president won't make his "evolving" position clear. But last night's speech was nonetheless a juggernaut. It opened with a wisecrack: "I also took a trip out to California last week, where I held some productive bilateral talks with your leader, Lady Gaga." Snarky, yes: Gaga as Kim Jong-Il. The president throwing shade.

Joking aside, he seemed acutely aware of the complaint he's getting from the LGBT community: that he's too slow on civil rights. So he reminded us that he has never counseled patience in the fight, which he conflated with the movement for black civil rights. Then, without sounding triumphal, he went through the stack of accomplishment in his first term: hate-crime legislation, DADT repeal, abandonment of the government's legal defense of DOMA (whose repeal he backs), lifting of the HIV travel ban, the "first comprehensive national strategy" to combat HIV/AIDS, hospital visitation rights for gay partners. (He didn't mention the State Department's new policy that makes it easier for transsexuals to change their passports.)

Nothing to sniff at.

He also threw his support behind the next priority: a workplace anti-discrimination law. That one's a tall order. To pass, it will need a fierce follow-through from the president.

His words for gay teens were moving - using the bully pulpit to go after bullies. Six years ago, when I came out of the closet in early high school, I couldn't have imagined a sitting American president (Bush, at the time) saying something like this: "I want all those kids to know that the President and the First Lady is standing right by them every inch of the way. I want them to know that we love them and care about them, and they’re not by themselves. That’s what I want them to know."

He also turned his speech to the economy, and in so doing made it clear that he regards gay people as people, as participants in democracy and not as a ghettoized demographic to be courted once-a-year in the dialect of gay politics. That might sound like a minor point, but it strikes me as important. He summarized his economic message with a simple formula: America is "big," not "small." We're powerful and just. We're not the unforgiving, anarcho-capitalist jungle that the far-right idealizes. 

The AP is calling the president "combative" for skewering the Republicans' staying mum while the debate crowd booed a gay soldier. But I wouldn't call his approach combative so much as dignified and matter-of-fact. Someone needed to say it: 

We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders - one of whom could end up being the President of the United States - being silent when an American soldier is booed. We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens... You want to be Commander-in-Chief?  You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.

Hear, hear!

EARLIER: Watch the President's speech to the HRC. (Starts at 9 mins, 30 secs)

Feed This post's comment feed


  1. I'm hard pressed to think that President Obama was comparing Lady Gaga to Kim Jong-Il. I'm not even sure why you went there.

    Posted by: Tanner | Oct 2, 2011 1:03:07 PM

  2. This is a preemptive strike against all the Obama-hating that is sure to follow this post.

    I don't find his position disappointing at all. He is a democratic president who has overseen more LGBT progress than any other president in history. He is also trying to get re-elected in the most anti-Democratic political climate in decades. He has EXPLICITLY (not even implicitly!) signaled to us that once he is re-elected, once he wins Ohio in November 2012, he will come out for marriage equality. He cannot make any progress on that front in his remaining term, and he CANNOT win re-election while backing it.

    Anyone who says otherwise has a short-term memory and no understanding of the electoral college. Kerry lost Ohio, and the election, in large part due to his PERCEIVED support of marriage equality. Anyone who knows this yet is genuinely pushing Obama to sabotage his own re-election bid for their own satisfaction, is helping to usher in another 8 years of republican, rabidly anti-gay government, under a president who would not only seek to re-introduce DADT and kill any ENDA legislation or DOMA repeals, but will never even speak to the gay community again, recasting us as the national pariah.

    Posted by: Mike C | Oct 2, 2011 1:18:26 PM

  3. Nicely written, but, please correct your list of accomplishments for the President. Obama, as President, still enforces DOMA- "De-Enformcement" of DOMA is what the right wing says he is doing, he's simply no longer defending it in court.

    Posted by: Dana Chilton | Oct 2, 2011 1:20:23 PM

  4. Look like you've entered election mode, Andy. We're celebrating that he thinks of us as "people?" Please, he used last night to stump for his jobs bill - the entire second half of his speech sounded like every speech he's given in the past two weeks. He didn't express support for gay marriage at all, just trumpeted the usual talking points. This post could've been written by Messina himself.

    Posted by: Alex | Oct 2, 2011 1:21:33 PM

  5. Dana - thank you so much for that correction. It's an important distinction and I've changed the text.

    Posted by: Penn | Oct 2, 2011 1:23:39 PM

  6. here's a short highlight reel btw, http://video.aol.com/aolvideo/aol-news/obama-talks-gay-rights/1194822233001

    Posted by: Mike C | Oct 2, 2011 1:28:27 PM

  7. Obama had my vote and still has it. Is he a dream come true, perhaps not, but the options are a nightmare.

    Posted by: oliver | Oct 2, 2011 1:44:48 PM

  8. @Oliver: Precisely. He may or may not be our friend, but the wingnuts are definitely numbered among our enemies.

    Posted by: justinw | Oct 2, 2011 2:12:22 PM

  9. The Gaga comment was definitely not meant that way...maybe you're thinking of "dear leader" instead of just "leader?" Saying she's our leader is just a rather cute joke with no fangs.

    Agreed on the rest.

    I will vote for him again happily. If I can scrounge up the cash, I'll donate the same amount to him, too.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Oct 2, 2011 2:20:26 PM

  10. If he's not saying it directly, and explicity? He's not saying it.

    Posted by: Tollendyr | Oct 2, 2011 2:44:17 PM

  11. This is the same guy who denounced both Hillary Clinton's and George Bush's positions during his last campaign and then carried them out after being elected.

    He'll say anything if he thinks it's what the audience wants to hear.

    Posted by: Jason (the commenter) | Oct 2, 2011 2:52:00 PM

  12. If he were a white woman, or an attractive white male, and had done EXACTLY what he has done thus far on gay issues...Im pretty sure his detractors on here would be noticably silent, if not outright defending him. But...cmon...we all know the truth dont we? The dirty lil factoid about LGBT community that we try and pretend isnt there.
    Its goes something like this...

    "We wanted Hillary, because she is a woman and liberal, but since this black guy got the nod, we will vote for him, but if he doesnt do EVERYTHING perfectly to our liking, then I'm done, because I dont relate to him the way I do a woman, and Im not sexually attracted to him because...well...you know...(whispered) he's black!"
    He's done more in 3 years than any president in the last 50 on gay rights. Yet we have ALL of this animosity in the LGBT community. I hate saying it because it leaves me feeling very sad for our people, and Im a white guy...but the writing is on the wall, and you should all take a long hard look at yourselves.
    He has my vote...no alternative comes close.

    Posted by: JT | Oct 2, 2011 3:06:24 PM

  13. @Dana Chilton,

    From your comment: "he's simply no longer defending it [DOMA] in court."

    Your information is not up-to-date. Your assessment was the case in February. On July 1, 2011, Obama's DOJ filed a brief *attacking* DOMA: historical discrimination against gay people, the need for heightened scrutiny, everything but the kitchen sink. Don't believe me? Read the brief:


    Posted by: Artie | Oct 2, 2011 3:07:14 PM

  14. Sorry, but I dropped a "w". Here's the correct link to the DOJ brief from July 1 attacking DOMA:


    This is heading toward the Supreme Court, probably within the next year and a half. And this means nothing? In whose opinion?

    Posted by: Artie | Oct 2, 2011 3:13:31 PM

  15. he's not against marriage equality coming from the states. maybe he'll have a change of heart if he gets a second term.

    at any rate, ANY republican in the white house would be another 4/8 years of stagnation if not a roll back

    Posted by: h | Oct 2, 2011 3:36:46 PM

  16. No he's too afraid of backlast

    Posted by: JEFFUWS | Oct 2, 2011 3:37:47 PM

  17. Let's call it like it is. Obama has done more for gay rights than all other Presidents combined.

    Posted by: dunstan | Oct 2, 2011 3:41:51 PM

  18. I've never been an Obama fan and could barely bring myself to vote for him in 2008 for many reasons but I don't quite get the Obama-hate around here. He really has been the best President "we" gays have ever had. I'm not happy about my choices in the upcoming election at all (I'm of a much more lefty/green persuasion - go NYC protesters!) but I would certainly rather see Obama making Supreme Court appointments over any republican. The absolute best that we can ask for right now is to get ENDA passed within the next few years and an administration that will no longer defend DOMA not to mention the possibility of a majority of Supreme Court justices who just might rule in favor of marriage equality for the entire country. I want it all and I want it now but it just ain't gonna happen.

    Posted by: Vlad | Oct 2, 2011 4:02:39 PM

  19. Thank you, JT. You spoke the truth

    Posted by: wondermann | Oct 2, 2011 4:07:15 PM

  20. We need to look at the larger picture. Obama isn't just slow on civil rights:

    Turley: In terms of civil liberties, Obama may be "the most disastrous president in our history"


    Posted by: Mike | Oct 2, 2011 4:14:23 PM

  21. I agree entirely that JT hit on an ugly truth about Obama's skin color. He is being held to a much higher standard by many whites than say Bill Clinton (a total sellout and a total sleazeball) who was President when the economy wasn't on the verge of total collapse and the American empire wasn't crumbling.

    Posted by: Vlad | Oct 2, 2011 4:16:29 PM

  22. He may not be responding the way we want him to, but what's the alternative in November 2012? A president Perry, Romney, Cain? I shudder to think. At least the democrats no longer legislate against us but the three clowns I mentioned will do just that. How on earth can any sound, intelligent voter who happens to be gay vote for that craziness?

    Posted by: Robert in NYC | Oct 2, 2011 4:25:03 PM

  23. This write-up reeks of ass-kissing! I never saw somebody try so hard to tease a non-existent marriage equality endorsement out of a speech. And calling Lady Gaga the leader of Gay people, that wasn't even a little bit cute. Stefani Germanotta couldn't lead me across the street! Let's be honest: President Obama is an opportunistic politician through-and-through, and he cynically used last night's HRC appearance to campaign for re-election. Is there nothing so gullible as a Gay pet who's just been thrown some scraps from the dinner table?

    Posted by: Stuffed Animal | Oct 2, 2011 4:39:44 PM

  24. Get stuffed "Animal."

    J.T. nails it.

    I have criticized him in hte past. But not now. We can't afford to have a Republican hold ANY office whatsoever in this country.

    Not even Dog-catcher.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 2, 2011 4:51:00 PM

  25. Oh, please.
    This is nothing but campaign rhetoric. he is NOT in support of marriage equality--stop calling it gay marriage, Towleroad!

    This is the same crap we heard before. Hope and change, blah blah blah. He is choosing his words very carefully so that fools will read into it and declare he's for marriage equality. He is not and has never been. Stop fooling yourselves and look at his record.

    This man is a pol and he will say and do anything to get re-elected.

    You are salivating over nothing and that's exactly the way he likes it!

    Posted by: truthteller | Oct 2, 2011 5:12:21 PM

  26. 1 2 »

Post a comment


« «New Video Shows Arrests at Moscow Gay Rally« «