Via ABC News
In an interview today with GMA’s Robin Roberts, President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage. Coming off days of intense speculation and pressure on the White House to clarify the president’s position and explain how it squares with recent comments by Vice President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan apparently indicating support for same-sex marriage, the announcement has already been widely praised by progressives and gay rights advocates.
“President Obama’s ‘evolution’ is now complete. Congratulations, Mr. President, for making history today by becoming the first sitting president to explicitly support marriage for same-sex couples,” said NGLTF executive director Rea Carey in a press release. “This is a great day for America.”
In the interview, Obama continued with the theme of his “evolving” thinking on same-sex marriage, telling Roberts:
I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.
Obama, however, stopped short of lending full support to the multi-state legal and political campaign for marriage equality. According to ABC News, the president stressed that his is a “personal position,” and that he continues to think that states should decide the issue independently.
In at least one crucial way then, Obama’s announcement stops short of a full reversal of policy. In the past, Obama has said that he thinks that “gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections that straight couples already enjoy,” but does not endorse same-sex marriage per se. This is not a coherent position. There simply is no legal category outside of marriage that grants same-sex couples all the rights and legal protections that straight couples enjoy—not civil unions, not domestic partnership arrangements. Only marriage recognized at the federal level and in all fifty states would do that.
Today, by endorsing a “states’ rights” approach to same-sex marriage, Obama essentially preserves the current status quo in which a handful of states recognize same-sex marriage and many states have constitutional bans against them. That is not marriage equality, and does not even reach the standard Obama previously embraced of equal rights and recognitions. Significantly, in the clip released by ABC News, Obama does not mention overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, the law currently under legal challenge that permits states to refuse to recognize marriages performed in other states and defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The Obama Justice Department recently declined to defend the latter part of DOMA in federal court, and the Obama administration has said they support repealing DOMA, supporting Senator Feinstein’s Respect for Marriage Act.