Adam Polaski

Obama Aide Dismisses 1996 Pro-Marriage Equality Questionnaires

Filed By Adam Polaski | June 17, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Daily Kos, Dan Pfeiffer, marriage equality, Netroots Nation

ObamaSignature.jpgToday at Netroots Nation, the annual conference for bloggers and online activists, Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, addressed questions from Kaili Joy Gray of Daily Kos about the president.

Gray asked specifically about President Obama's stance on marriage equality. She pointed out that although he has stood firm in his opposition to marriage equality since entering federal politics, Obama responded in two questionnaires in 1996 with Outlines magazine that he supports same-sex marriage.

Pfeiffer dismissed the questionnaires by saying that the "questionnaire was actually filled out by someone else, not the president." The questionnaire, signed by Obama while he was running for Illinois state legislature, voices support for a number of actions that expand gay rights and treatment of LGBT people.

The video of the exchange is below. Here is the transcript of the on-stage interview between Gray and Pfeiffer:

Gray: It seems like his position has gone from more supportive of civil rights to less supportive of civil rights. Is the president going to evolve again and get back to supporting civil rights on gay marriage?
Dan Pfeiffer: I'll try to paraphrase an answer that the president gave....
Gray: Well, I've got his exact answer right here - 'I favor legalizing same-sex marriage and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.
Dan Pfeiffer: If you actually go back and look, that questionnaire was actually filled out by someone else, not the president, there was a long debate about this in the campaign.
Gray: So it's a fake questionnaire?
Pfeiffer: So what I'll tell you is that the president's position has been consistent on this, and what he has said...
Gray: So hold on a minute - you're saying that this was a fake questionnaire.
Pfeiffer: This was litigated in the campaign, there were a number of other issues in that campaign.
...
Gray: So, the president has never favored same-sex marriage?
Pfeiffer: "The president's position on gay marriage, I will say, is that he has been against it. He has said that the country is evolving on this and he is evolving on it, and he has said why this is. This is an answer he gave when some of the folks in this room were in the White House and meeting with the president. ...

The interview with Pfeiffer reflects a clear contradiction between the president's current, vocal opposition to marriage equality and his previous opinions and perspectives. According to his communications director, he is not saying that he has changed his mind on the issue - he is saying that the evidence of his previous support was a forgery.

John Aravosis at AMERICAblog Gay has more:

It's one thing for the President not to support gay marriage (and it would be a problem nonetheless). But this President supported gay marriage, repeatedly, and now claims he doesn't. And now he appears to be lying about the issue.

That's not fierce advocacy.

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Does Alex's departure now mean that Bilerico is going to start credulously quoting noted transphobe and serial liar John Aravosis?

Pfeiffer never claimed that the thing was a forgery. Obama has governed exactly the way he said he would when he ran. He ran on a "i'm pro-civil union, but I also prefer to leave it up to the states, and I'll fight for strong federal recognition" platform, and that's exactly how he's governed.

Also, I challenge you to demonstrate Obama's "vocal" opposition to marriage. Has he given one major speech in opposition to marriage equality?

Yeah, please stop quoting John Aravosis.

I do suspect Obama's "yay civil unions, nay marriage equality" position is a calculated hedge meant to make him look moderate. If marriage ticks up a few percentage points, he's given himself an out to "evolve" in that direction.

It's important to be realistic about where we are on this as a country -- civil unions are actually banned by the state constitutions of such moderate places as Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and Florida, all of which Obama won. Civil unions would be a significant leftward move for all of those states.

"Vocal" meaning he has voiced his opposition to marriage equality.

Look, I'm trying not to be pedantic here, but that simply isn't what it means to be a "vocal opponent." That phrase denotes a level of stridency expressed in both tone and emphasis that should be reserved for people who actively campaign against marriage equality.

It's certainly fair to say that Obama has been insufficiently supportive of marriage equality, but to call him a "vocal opponent" is categorically false.

Ok, I understand. 'Vocal opponent' was less than precise.

But Pfeiffer did imply forgery by saying it was filled out by someone else, although Obama's signature appears.

Either way, the White House has responded in a pretty non-conclusive way that skirts the issue.

Please let's stop quoting someone because they don't bow to Obama. Whatever. The president needs to own that he has devolved since 1996. He has pissed a lot of people off with this latest "calculation".

No, it means we'll continue to quote the people saying interesting things that add to the stories we run. This isn't Towleroad where they refuse to link us very often because Andy has a personal grudge. We were built to give everyone a voice and give a more rounded picture of the community. Like it or lump it, John is part of the community.

Fair enough, but John already has a platform! He may be part of "the community", whatever that is, but he's not exactly being marginalized if you go somewhere else for insight.

Let's be clear Bil. Personal grudges are silly and petty--but that is not the same as having a basic and endemic problem with honesty and an ongoing anti-trans vendetta, as Aravosis does.