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)


  1. Tanner says

    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.

  2. Mike C says

    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.

  3. Dana Chilton says

    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.

  4. says

    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.

  5. Penn says

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

  6. oliver says

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

  7. justinw says

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

  8. says

    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.

  9. says

    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.

  10. JT says

    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.

  11. Artie says

    @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:


  12. h says

    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

  13. dunstan says

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

  14. Vlad says

    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.

  15. Vlad says

    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.

  16. Robert in NYC says

    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?

  17. says

    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?

  18. says

    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.

  19. truthteller says

    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!

  20. bruce says

    Obama is wearing his pandering suit. He was in similar mode when he was fishing for our votes in the last Presidential campaign. If you’re silly enought to fall for it, go right ahead.

    With his poll numbers tanking, no wonder he’s out there scrapping for our votes.

  21. truthteller says

    I find your racist diatribe disgusting. You are insinuating those who criticizes the president are racists–in order to guilt them into silence about the POLICIES of the president.

    Your whole pshyco-babble rant reveals your true feeling about race. You are projecting and simply trying to cover those ugly feelings up and overcompensating so others will not find you out…just the way bullies do!

    The criticism has not been about him or his skin color (he is half white, you know) but about the lies and right wing policies he so loves. The fact that you injected racism into the discussion reveals much more about you than you might be willing to accept.

    @ VLAD,
    You might want to re-think the strategy that Obama will appoint progressives to the supreme court. He just appointed 6 US Attorneys, 5 of those were the preference of Republicans, to the chagrin of the Democrats. This man is a Republican in Democratic garb.


  22. paul b. says

    I think he’s doing a great job for us…in a manner that hopefully will get him re-elected so he can continue advocating equality for all.
    What would you have him do…alienate himself by pushing too hard & fast. He’s working the crowd…on our behalf!
    He has my vote, hands down.
    What’s your option…Hitler, Perry, Bachman, Santorum…et.al…NOT!

  23. Jack says

    Penn Bullock, good job. You’ve changed my mind about you. I will not criticize you or your sometimes-excessive writing style ever again.

  24. BRENDA says

    Dear Penn:

    I learned a lot today from your summary of President Obama’s work on behalf of LGBT people. As a result of your fair minded assessment, the anger that I previously felt concerning the lack of movement on some issues by the president’s administration has somewhat abated. And I stand corrected: his administration has done a great deal for LGBT rights. Still, I have some concerns.

    It’s a seemingly minor point, Penn, but you said the following: “He didn’t mention the State Department’s new policy that makes it easier for transsexuals to change their passports.” While some still use the word “transsexual,” the language that most people of diverse gender use is prefer is “transgender.”

    Get this: Given President Obama’s past statements (either lukewarm, omitting, or against marriage equality and other rights), I am not sure if he actually *believes* in LGBT rights or if he has done these things for political expediency to shore up a part of his electoral base and get money from the wealthy (and mostly white) gays that are now holding fundraisers for him. Will he keep fighting for LGBT rights if he gets another term?

    ENDA (The Employment Non-Discrimination Act) is the specific act that has been languishing in Congress for decades pertaining to protections for workplace discrimination for LGBT people. The act is very simple and direct. It stops discrimination against civilian employees with 15 or more workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and it exempts religious employers. I sure wish President Obama would get on the ENDA bandwagon.

    LGBT people are just as poor and unemployed as the rest of the country. We are not all wealthy and privileged. We are not all white (I’m Korean-American.) Working against poverty, workplace protections, and ending corporate greed are just as important to me than marriage. I find the Obama administration to be very, very weak and ineffectual on these issues, and, YES, these issues do affect LGBT people.

    Sure, racism is always part of everything. I believe that Obama has been the systematic target of racism from many people. But I think Obama’s progressive critics are reacting to his past misdeeds, his past lack of clarity on LGBT issues, his missed opportunities, his ineffectual compromises (and sell-outs), his power plays in line with corporate greedy people. These are justified critiques and not just racism.

    President Obama and his administration are war mongers of the worse sort: endless, costly wars; an increased surveillance state that spies on us terribly; denial of due process and habeas corpus for prisoners; a total lack of action regarding our failed prison system and the role that corporations play in prison abuses and the horror of the death penalty; detention without trial–this Nobel peace prizing winning president is responsible for the worse kinds of war-related human rights and civil liberties abuses. You don’t need a gay journalist like Glenn Greenwald to tell you how bad Obama’s war-mongering and civil liberties abuses are. These issues are just as important to me as marriage equality.

    But, in the end, Obama will probably be better than the alternatives and I think it will come down to that on election night.

    –Brenda Kwang

  25. LA Guy says

    Before President Obama, I always voted Democrat because…why would I vote for a Republican when they hate gay people? And while I still feel that way on the local level, for President all bets are off.

    Look beyond gay rights…do you think he’s been a good President? I don’t. He’s been a failure. Even worse, he’s been a weakling and a liar. And his leadership is destroying the Democratic party. Interesting that he’s been oh-so-liberal lately since he’s in re-election mode and finally got the memo that he’s losing his coalition.

    So here we go again…after 3 years of b.s., we’re back to hope and change. If he is re-elected, will he keep his promises? I don’t believe so. Do you think things are better than they were 3 years ago? (Besides DADT?) I don’t. So why vote for him? He was not qualified to be President. He has not been a good President. Enough.

  26. ty says

    Who are all these trolls on here!! For instance, LA GUY, you actually think we would be better off with a republican you are dreaming! Obama is not liberal enough, that’s his problem. But his accomplishments are many, and now, rather than being dropped from my insurance for a pre-existing condition, I am covered. Yay!

  27. Marc C says

    Bruce I don’t know who you are, but you’ve got my vote…

    for being a right-wing hack.

  28. George M says

    Truthteller, Bruce and La Guy

    Who would you vote for and why?
    If a republican got in with control in congress and reinstated DADT, removed hate crimes laws, and pushed for a ban on marriage would you care?

    Listen folks, he is not by any means perfect. If republican signed a pledg to ONLY deal with money issues and not touch social issues then I’d say look at them. But let be Real, you all dam well know that they will work on social issues and some of that will be us. Make no mistake it will happen. This election is more important then 2008, this one is about holding on to what we got. States like Iowa and NH are still fighting to keep the progress they made, social conservative will salivate if a republican wins the whitehouse. I to votes for Hillary in CT’s primary, she didn’t get we need to get over it. We hold him to his word, we point out things to him, we reminde everyday that we’re here but we don’t vote for people who publicly state they will change course and reverse our progress. That’s not how we win

  29. Kas says

    I will cast a vote for this president to retain his office, and has done quite a lot for us regardless of what some around here might say.

    Just remember, if you don’t vote for him and he loses you have only yourselves to thank for the Republican nightmare we will all get to live through.

  30. David Milton Greer says

    not a fart in a windstorm’s chance that this comes close to an “endorsement”.

    what it is, sadly, is using the republican coward’s way out when they don’t want to go on record and say “it’s a state’s rights issue”. the FACT that my legal marriage performed one year and 3 days ago in washington, d.c. but isn’t recognized in our home state of TEXAS chips away at that “state’s rights” thing…

    what completely enshrines it as a federal issue is the fact that we don’t have the same rights, rewards and obligations as our opposite sex, largely sanctity of institution defilin, counterparts.

  31. George M says

    1st congrats on 1 year!!!!
    2nd This prez does believe that states should decide this issues, TX not recognizing your marriage Is states rights, what sucks is that TX like so many decided we were not equal. he also believes that part 3 (I think it’s 3) Is a violation of law meaning the government can’t say no to CT who said yes to gay marriage.
    That’s the point, Obama is not perfect but he believes DOMA needs to go and states need to be free to set marriage laws. Please understand that he is the only one running who would sign a repeal.
    Paul and Fred are not going to get it. The republicans will never let them.
    Obama doesn’t personally have to agree with your marriage but he’s the only one who wouldn’t stop you from having it

  32. GRivera says





    We’re not the unforgiving, anarcho-capitalist jungle that the far-right idealizes.



  34. Shawn says

    I love some of you geniuses on here. “Obama is not liberal enough for me, so I’m going to stay home and let an even less liberal candidate get elected president.” That makes absolutely no sense. Instead of throwing a temper tantrum, why not behave like rational adults and vote for the guys whose views are closest to your own? I’m so tired of the whining, bitching and moaning.