Alex Blaze

Not every liberal supports same-sex marriage

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 13, 2010 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: David Boies, federal court, gay marriage, Geoff Kors, marriage, marriage rights, Prop. 8, rick jacobs, theordore olson

Maybe Equality California is just trying to shape coverage of Obama's words on same-sex marriage, since it's unlikely he'll come out with a brief for the Prop 8 trial this late in the game. But, if he did, something tells me we wouldn't like it. So I don't think getting him to submit something is the best idea:

Kors elaborated on that after the first day of testimony. "This is the civil rights trial of the decade," he said. "We're asking the Justice Department to weigh in on a basic principle. This doesn't only apply to the LGBT community, but all minorities. And to be silent is unacceptable."

Obviously, Obama's perceived reticence to speak out meaningfully on LGBT issues while President has caused strains with that constituency. Providing an amicus brief would help to soothe those tensions, and show LGBT Americans that he is willing to go beyond talk, and toward action. "If Obama would have the courage to lead on this issue, it would say a lot about him and of course change the sense many in the LGBT community have that he is not pushing for equality," said Rick Jacobs. "Think how you and so many others would feel if Obama spoke up."

Obama hasn't completely shied away from speaking on LGBT issues, including marriage. Here's what he had to say in August 2008 to Rick Warren:

Then asked to define marriage, he told Warren, "It's a union between a man and a woman."

"For me as a Christian, it is a sacred union. God's in the mix," he said.

Obama added that he does support same-sex civil unions, saying, "I can afford those civil rights to others even if I don't have ... that view."

No, that's not quite the argument we want him making.

Candidate Obama later clarified his position with this:

Senators Obama and Biden have made clear their commitment to fighting for equal rights for all Americans whether it's by granting LGBT Americans all the civil rights and benefits available to heterosexual couples, or repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' Senator Obama has already announced that the Obama-Biden ticket opposes Proposition 8 and similar discriminatory constitutional amendments that could roll back the civil rights he and Senator Biden strongly believe should be afforded to all Americans.

Pro civil unions but against the word marriage. That's pretty much what Prop 8 did in California - they already had "everything but the word" civil unions for same-sex couples, and, if the judge rules that Prop 8 stands, that's what the right will win.

He opposed Prop 8, sure, but now that it's passed? California's laws on same-sex partnerships is exactly Obama's campaign promise to America.

The article continues:

Obama's name actually came up in court several times on the first day - from the pro-Prop 8 side. They quoted Obama as supporting the concept of marriage as between a man and a woman. Pro-equality lawyer David Boies countered that Obama's parents wouldn't have been allowed to marry in most states before Loving v. Virginia allowed inter-racial marriage. But clearly, Obama's words are being used as talking points in this trial. "The fact that right-wing groups oppose everything by the Obama Administration, and then use his position to support their claims on Prop 8, makes it more important that he make himself known," said Geoff Kors.

I'm sure the right is bringing up Obama's opposition to same-sex marriage. It makes it harder to say that their side is motivated by nothing but out-of-fashion bigotry when the country just voted in a guy with the same beliefs as they have.

And just bringing up Obama's parents isn't really a response. Here's what candidate Obama thought about being the product of an interracial marriage and how that relates to same-sex marriage nowadays:

Well, look, you know, when my parents got married in 1960, '61, you know, it would have been illegal for them to be married in a number of states in the South. So obviously, this is something that I understand intimately, it's something that I care about.

But I would also say this, that if I were advising the civil rights movement back in 1961 about its approach to civil rights, I would have probably said it's less important that we focus on an anti-miscegenation law than we focus on a voting rights law and a non-discrimination and employment law and all the legal rights that are conferred by the state.

Now, it's not for me to suggest that you shouldn't be troubled by these issues. I understand that and I'm sympathetic to it. But my job as president is going to be to make sure that the legal rights that have consequences on a day to day basis for loving same sex couples all across the country, that those rights are recognized and enforced by my White House and by my Justice Department.

Hmmmm... not exactly a ringing endorsement of the "The blacks got the right to marry, so we can draw a straight line from racists of yesteryear to homophobes of today to show that the opponents of same-sex marriage don't have an argument decent people would support!" argument. It sounds more like: "Yeah, my parents wouldn't have been able to marry in a lot of states, but that's not really all that big of a deal to me. More important are other issues of the Civil Rights Movement, and, even still, if they had some sort of 'civil unions for interracial couples,' I probably would have been in support of that."

Then there was Obama saying he thinks marriage is between a man and a woman on the Senate floor in 2006:

Now, I realize that for some Americans, this is an important issue. And I should say that personally, I do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

But let's be honest. That's not what this debate is about. Not at this time.[...]

I agree with most Americans, with Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Cheney, with over 2,000 religious leaders of all different beliefs, that decisions about marriage, as they always have, should be left to the states.

Today, we should take this amendment only for what it is - a political ploy designed to rally a few supporters and draw the country's attention away from this leadership's past failures and America's future challenges.

"Should be left to the states"? Then maybe he'd be against a federal court telling California that it can't ban same-sex marriage.

Obama also, while he was president, completely ignored the fight for marriage in Maine. Perhaps for the better.

I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade. It would be nice if Obama or someone who works for him filed a brief talking about how the gays deserve marriage and Prop 8 should be overturned. It'd also be nice if all Republicans came out in favor of single-payer health care, because it'd be a lot easier to pass if they did.

But it's not going to happen, and Obama's carved himself out a little "I'm OK with civil unions and almost everything related to marriage except for same-sex marriage" space that he hasn't shown any sign of budging from, and it's unlikely he'll go so far as to agree with the plaintiffs that there is a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

In other words, it'll probably serve our side better if he just stayed out of this one. If he or someone who works for him filed a brief that started with, "I believe marriage is between one man and one woman, but..." that wouldn't be helping.


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Obama is only a "liberal" by comparison to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck. Kucinich is a liberal, Obama is as centrist as they come and about as "liberal" as Ronald Reagan.

I'd say that Obama is about as liberal as they come (although the corporate hand-outs that have been a trademark of his administration aren't), while, from what I know about Kucinich, I'd say that he's a left-libertarian.

In the US, it seems like people are either left or right, liberal or conservative, and "socialism" is another word for "really, really liberal." But the way I was using the term was as a specific political philosophy that focuses on individual rights, technocratic regulation, and a focus on formal equality instead of material equality.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | January 13, 2010 3:05 PM

You're being a bit broad in your definition I think. I'm more "liberal" than most people I know. In some cases, I'm downright socialist. When it comes to some issues, however, I'm pretty Libertarian. I'm not going to argue which box Obama or Kucinich, (or I), belong in but Barack Obama has seemingly embraced trickle down economics as conventional wisdom, rained more fire and death down on Afghan and Pakistani civilians than Bush, taken over 20 MILLION dollars from health care lobbyists, filed briefs supporting DADT and DOMA, not pushed for passage of ENDA or the EFCA. I voted for Obama. I gave to his campaign, I knocked on doors but I never was fooled into believing that he was any kind of "liberal" and his actions since he has taken office bear that opinion out. The fact is that liberals are shockingly under represented in congress. Even my own congressman Lloydd Doggett isn't much of a "liberal" even if he is arguably one of the most progressive members of the congress.

Instead of pestering the President to do something he clearly isn't likely to do the energy might be better spend urging him to rattle some cages on the Hill in support of ENDA.

Or we could spit in the ocean expecting to turn the tide. Our present methods of "urging him" would have the same effect.

You [and they] forgot that the statement the White House released in his name about the Iowa Supreme Court pro-marriage equality decision needelessly reiterated his opposition to marriage equality.

As for his HRC forum knee slapper, "... if I were advising the civil rights movement back in 1961 about its approach to civil rights, I would have probably said it's less important that we focus on an anti-miscegenation law...." — that SHOULD have been one of the wake-up calls to all the little boys and girls [LGBT and nonLGBT] throwing themselves on the floor and speaking in tongues everytime Barry bleated because it proved he didn't know shit from Shinola about his own people's history while lecturing us.

Raise your hand if you remember a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., or anyone else of note from SCLC, focusing on interracial marriage. A public demonstration for it? A sit-in for it? A boycott about it? "The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the nation's leading force against racism in the law, blew hot and cold about interracial marriage. ... in the 1950s, its Legal Defense Fund (LDF) feared that any mention of interracial marriage would endanger its campaign against school segregation." - Peggy Pascoe, "What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America" (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009)

The NAACP's efforts, as such, were then state legislation-focused, primarily in western states.
In 1964, they finally joined a Supreme Court case involving a Florida couple, but the eventual plaintiffs in the case that would result in the US Supreme Court outlawing anti-miscegenation bans, the Lovings, didn't write MLK or the NAACP in 1963, but US Attorney General Robert Kennedy to ask if they might have some protection in the proposed 1964 Civil Rights Act. He forwarded their letter not to the NAACP legal arm but to the ACLU which took up their case.

But since Obama couldn't even, uh, shall we say, remember his own history correctly, having claimed his birth was somehow related to the passions stimulated by the Great Selma March even though the march happened five years after he was conceived, why quibble about his lame misstatements about the history of the black civil rights movement meant simply to distract from criticism of his naked moral hypocrisy about marriage equality for gays?

And, before anyone, knee jerks, "but Hillary was against it, too," the inflammatory difference is that she never went out of her way, as he did, both in his US Senate and Presidential campaigns, to put "God in the mix" thus, virtually, voting with the religio Antigay Industry.

So, yeah, not too smart to invite him to the party.

Obama also said:

"For the gay and lesbian community in this country, I think it's clear that they feel victimized in fairly powerful ways and they're often hurt by not just certain teachings of the Catholic Church, but the Christian faith generally. And as a Christian, I'm constantly wrestling with my faith and my solicitude and regard and concern for gays and lesbians."

Religion is more important than Liberal or Conservative. His heart tells him to support equality, but his head (Christian beliefs) tells him not to.

Polling data supporting "equality" would change his "mind."

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | January 13, 2010 3:14 PM

Agreed! Superstition far too often plays far too much of a role in peoples' beliefs and opinions, yet the same people laugh and scoff when Islamic fundies believe they will be treated to dozens of virgins in paradise if they martyr themselves for "Allah". I originally supported Clinton because Obama is far too superstitious for my taste. At least I don't remember her bringing "God" into the equation when she discusses her ideas about equality. NEITHER of them are particularly liberal though. They are both DNC and DLC poster children.

I kept wondering when I saw that they were upset that Obama hadn't sent in a statement, "Do they realize what he'd probably say?" You're right, Alex. It would probably only piss more people off than if they kept their mouth shut.

I don't know why anyone in the anti-prop 8 crowd would want a statement from Obama. As has been pointed out, he has staked out a space not supportive of marriage equality.
However, as you probably know, the Windy City Times released Obama's statement from 1996 when he ran for IL State Senate seat.
In a questionnaire Obama claimed to be for 'gay marriage'. Of course, Obama was running for a seat in the heavily gay and'liberal' or 'progressive' hetero side of Chicago.
When Obama ran for the US Senate in IL he changed his tune to civil unions, but only because the 'other side' had made such a fuss about the word marriage. He was not opposed to gay marriage per se, but only wanted to support civil unions as an expedient route to get things done. Religion was not mentioned at all.
Religion was not mentioned, that is, until he started preparing for his run for the presidency.
When, lo and behold, god was now 'in the mix'.
I don't know if this was a convenient transition, or an evolution in thought.
But at some level, it is what it is.

I appreciate all the comments that have been posted here. I see the points you are making.

In response I would say, we have to ask our elected leaders to stand up, for our community and for our Constitution. They are elected to represent our interests. The more of us ask them to take a stand for LGBT rights, the more likely they are to take a stand.

While President Obama may not say he supports marriage for same-sex couples, I hope that he can agree that the rights of a minority should never be voted on by the majority. He said on the campaign trail that he would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, and as a Senator he voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment. These things give me hope that he can be persuaded to ask the Court to overturn Prop 8. The President wouldn’t have to stand for marriage for same-sex couples in order to ask the federal court to find Prop 8 to be unconstitutional (though I certainly wish he would).

I hope you’ll join me in signing the petition. We have to keep the pressure on our leaders, including the President, to stand up for the rights of LGBT people across the nation. Only then will they act.

In solidarity,

Geoff Kors
Executive Director, Equality California