Alex Blaze

So where does Obama stand on the Perry decision?

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 05, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, David Axelrod, marriage, vaughn walker

Here's David Axelrod on MSNBC explaining Obama's position on same-sex marriage after the Prop 8 trial decision. I comprehend that position, but that doesn't mean it makes sense (transcript's after the jump):

This is exactly why people hate Democrats.

Leaving aside my thoughts on the institution of marriage, the politics of the White House's position is stupid. But let's start with the logic first.

  1. Obama supports "equal rights" for same-sex couples, meaning the same rights as married, heterosexual couples but it shouldn't be called marriage.
  2. Prop 8 did what he says he wanted it to do, by taking away the word "marriage" from domestic partnerships in California but keeping all the same state-level rights in there.
  3. Obama opposed Prop 8.

Yes, I think people can be forgiven for not understanding a politician who opposes a law that does exactly what he says he wants done.

Here's another:

  1. Obama believes that it's up to the states to decide same-sex marriage, which is the status quo.
  2. When a federal judge intervenes and tells a state it must honor same-sex marriages, he refuses to say anything negative about the decision, releasing this non-statement:

    "The President has spoken out in opposition to Proposition 8 because it is divisive and discriminatory. He will continue to promote equality for LGBT Americans."

Exactly what he says he opposes happens, and he... is ok with it? Or not?

On the political side, this makes even less sense. First, he has a position he can't even explain, much less persuade people to adopt.

Second, the right already assumes he supports same-sex marriage, so he's getting the political downside of supporting it.

Third, there are plenty of queers (and straights) who place more importance on the word marriage than they do on the benefits that come with it. These tend to be the people who care the most about the president's position on marriage, so the people who care the most about this position in the Democratic tent are going to be the most pissed off by it. So he gets the political downside of opposing same-sex marriage.

People in the middle on this issue aren't going to be persuaded, and those on either side dislike his position. Instead of thinking that they're a bunch of clever, wonky insiders whose genius no one understands, maybe the White House could recognize the fact that they've completely messed up the politics and take on a new, clearer position.

This one seems like a freebie to me, since the president and Congress don't determine who marries; it's a state issue that is making its way through the federal court system. So Obama could take any position and it wouldn't affect policy. Considering how the right will never give him credit for opposing the homosexual agenda no matter how hard he tries (remember Kerry in 2004?), he might as well try to satisfy his base and close the enthusiasm gap.

As Robert Reich points out, it's what Obama's done on most issues: caved to the right, pissed off the left, and not gotten any credit from the right because they're not living in the same reality the rest of us are. It does give me some solace to see him do this on marriage; at least it isn't just the money lobbyists are dumping into the federal government that makes it impossible for him to take a real stand since marriage opponents don't have as much money as, say, the oil or pharmaceutical industries. It's (also) a personality or ideological issue: Obama wants to please everyone and ends up pleasing no one.

For the record, what I would have loved to have seen him do on this issue, even though it's out of the realm of possibility for our centrist president, is announce that he's going to work with Congress to look for ways to open all the federal benefits of marriage to everyone by creating actual universal health care and legislation that supports people defining their own families and to make the federal government a model employer by no longer using marriage to distribute employment benefits, thus bypassing the need for the government to bless certain relationships and insult others. Sure, conservatives and liberals would probably get mad over that, but at least we'd move the country forward on this issue.


Transcript for video:

>> yeah, we'll get into that. while the spth here in chicago, the senior political adviser holding down the fort in washington. he joins us live from the white house briefing room this morning. thanks for being with us.

>> good to be with you guys.

>> so let's start with the news, the federal judge striking down the ban on same-sex marriage that california voters passed in 2008. i think the american public could be forgiven if they're a little confused about where the president stands on all of this. he said he opposes same-sex marriage. he's said in the campaign he didn't mind what california voters trying to do, banning prop 8. yesterday, though, the white house says, well, the president has spoken out against prop 8 in the past and said he'd work to repeal the federal defense of marriage act but the justice department since he's been president has litigated on behalf of that law. so let's just forget all of that in the past and ask you, where does the president stand today? does he still opposed same-sex marriage?

>> well, savannah, let me just correct something in your rather lengthy litany of events there. the president opposed proposition 8 at the time. he felt that it was divisive and mean spirited and aposed it at the time so we reiterated that position yesterday. the president does oppose same-sex marriage and supports equality for gay and lesbian couples and benefits and other issues and that's been effectuated in federal agencies under his control. he's supports civil unions. and, that's been his position throughout. so nothing has changed.

>> but david, can i just say i'm looking at an interview right here for abc back in june of 2008 where tapper asks him, does it bother you what california's doing and the president responds, no.

>> well, savannah, i'm at a loss here because i'm just zitting on a set but be happy to ship you the statement that the president made on specifically proposition 8 and opposition to it at the time. you're working off of incomplete information there.

>> david, clear this up. does the president support states trying to go their own way on same-sex marriage? do you think it's appropriate for a state to ban it and appropriate for other states to decide it's okay?

>> well, look. he does believe that marriage is an issue for the states. and he did oppose proposition 8.

>> all right.

>> so that's been his position.


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So, the black guy is for a 'separate, but equal' policy. Interesting...

bill konigsberg | August 5, 2010 3:43 PM

I'm so done with the Democratic party. This response simply doesn't make sense, beyond the fact that for some reason Obama is still trying to placate people on the right who will never, ever support him. I will not be voting for a Democrat again until that candidate actually comes out in support of gay marriage. No more double talk.

Alex, you hit the nail on the head --- Obama doesn't know which minister he needs to listen to. Thus, he is trying to take a path right down the middle, to avoid anyone getting super-pissed at him --- and instead, he ends up with everyone pissed at him!

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 6, 2010 3:07 AM

H. Clinton, Obama and most Congressional Democrats have the same wrongheaded ideas about same sex marriage. They're against it because it makes it easier for them to pander to bigoted voters.

H. Clinton says

"Marriage has got historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage always has been, between a man and a woman."

Obama says

"I'm a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

They oppose same sex marriage and endorse the second class status and homohating discrimination of civil unions or partnerships. They echo the traditional battle cry of Democrats opposed to progress from Jefferson Davis to today - States Rights.

In truth, any level of opposition to same sex marriage and support for civil unions/partnerships is bigotry. (When some of us support civil unions/partnerships for misinformed tactical reasons that's not bigotry, just totaly miskaken. But when right centrist, cult driven straight politicians do it it's bigotry, pure and simple.)


Some people, when the knowledge that the Democrats are worthless sinks in, begin to consider the Republican Party, but they're the other side of the same right centrist coin.

I agree with you on most of your points, Bill. I wonder, though, if the job in politics is to get elected (as defined by those in the politics game, not by me), and if the voters are indeed bigoted, as you say, then isn't opposition to marriage equality among lawmakers a natural consequence of democracy in a bigoted society?

And if that is true, and if we want to pass equality laws, isn't our main job to change the bigotry of the voters? If we don't strategically change the bigotry of a majority of voters in enough districts, how can we win legislatively?

And how do we go about changing their bigotry?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 6, 2010 4:01 PM

Bigotry has deep economic as well as historic roots. We've seen hundreds of years of racism and slavery, gynophobia and the enslavement of women in marriage, homohating, immigrant bashing and low wages, and 'the only good Indian is a dead Indian' to steal land.

All the land is stolen, all the slaves (except hose in prison caught in the web of Jim Crow drug laws) are freed, and marriage is undergoing profound changes. Nevertheless those bigotries continue to hold sway. For example, Dixiecrat racism reemerged - it was never gone, just politely kept behind closed doors - with the election of Obama.

Homohating has few economic determinants. The addition of GLBT people to classes of workers who can be more easily discriminated against in terms of wage differentials, rent and services is the most important.

Voters aren't born bigots or racists. They're exposed at home, in schools and by the constant drumbeat of bigotry from the abrahamic cults. And by the bigoted examples of the Obama's, Bushes and Clintons who stress their contempt for us by opposing marriage rights and delaying ENDA.

The most important task in the fight against bigotry is to break from the parties of the bigots. GLBT Democrats and Log Cabin Republican regularly get fed up with bigots like the Clintons, the Bushes, Obama. Pelosi, and self-loathers like Barney Frank. And for decades, blind as bats, party partisans in the movement have refused to connect the dots between their support for bigots and the continued sway of bigots in politics.. For LGBT Democrats and Republican the pattern of self-delusion and self immolation repeats itself endlessly as they swing, enthralled, from one lesser bigot to the next. As Karl Marx said " History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce..

Secondly, larger and more frequent demonstrations - national and local - with a militant agenda will demoralize our enemies, build alliance and most important of all be a focus to build nationwide, democratic (non-Democratic/Republican) militant. self sustaining organizations to drive our struggle forward.

it's what Obama's done on most issues: caved to the right, pissed off the left, and not gotten any credit from the right because they're not living in the same reality the rest of us are.

That's saying a mouthful. I wonder why Obama keeps shooting himself in the foot on these things?

"tries to please everyone and ends up pleasing no one" is exactly right.

Let me just add, the public seems less squeamish than the president does on this issue. A regular Joe has a clearer opinion. Why is the president lukewarm?

Notice too, most people know what a Log Cabin Republican is. Few know what the opposite of that is. What's the anti-gay democrat group called? (no, it's not blue dog because they're stance has little to do with gay issues and they're not very homogeneous about it). Give up? No one.

In other words, politically, the gay issue today has clear bipartisan potential for group consensus but the POTUS has turned it into a media chain of waffle houses.