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.
– President Obama, May 9, 2012
Though he does not officially support gay marriage, President Obama voiced opposition to a proposed anti-gay marriage ballot measure in Minnesota today.
Obama for America Minnesota Communications Director Kristin Sosanie said:
“While the President does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples.”
“That’s what the Minnesota ballot initiative would do – single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples – and the President does not support it.”
The proposed Minnesota marriage amendment reads simply, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.”
It’s the second time in as many months Obama has weighed in on the issue.
The Obama campaign in North Carolina issued a statement in March with the same language in opposition to Amendment One, which would also define marriage in the state’s constitution as between one man and one woman.
Just as in North Carolina, same-sex marriage is already banned by a statute in Minnesota. Unlike the North Carolina amendment, the Minnesota amendment does not mention civil unions or domestic partnerships.
Today’s news comes after White House press secretary Jay Carney stated that First Lady Michelle Obama – in referencing how Supreme Court decisions will impact whether people can “love whomever we choose” – was not commenting about marriage equality.
Her husband, though “evolving” in his views on marriage equality, technically opposed marriage equality and supported civil unions in his 2008 campaign.
April 9th, 2012 4:32 PM by Free Britney
Now? They’re almost silent.
It’s been one of the swiftest shifts in ideology and strategy for Republicans, as they’ve come nearly full circle on same-sex politics. What was once a front-and-center issue for rank-and-file Republicans — the subject of many hotly worded House and Senate floor speeches — is virtually a dead issue, as Republicans in Congress don’t care to have gay marriage litigated in the Capitol.
Even more than that, Republican leadership has evolved, too. It has quietly worked behind the scenes to kill amendments that reaffirm opposition to same-sex unions, several sources told POLITICO.
It’s not like the GOP has become a bastion of progressiveness on gay rights, but there has been an evolution in the political approach — and an acknowledgment of a cultural shift in the country. Same-sex relationships are more prominent and accepted. There are more gay public figures — including politicians — and it’s likely that many Washington Republicans have gay friends and coworkers. Just as important — there’s also a libertarian streak of acceptance on people’s sexuality coursing through the House Republican Conference.
“In one decade, what’s shocking on TV is accepted as commonplace in the other,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a veteran of the culture wars of the 1990s. “It’s the same with sexual mores all over that if you look at campuses and universities, they have a lot of gay pride clubs and so there has been a deliberate and effective outreach to the younger generation about being more accepting of same-sex relationships.”
But there’s also a political strategy at work: The economy has displaced moral issues in today’s politics. Ask most House Republicans today if they have deep convictions about gay relationships, and it hardly registers.
“I personally have deep convictions about my children having a financially stable country that they can live in,” Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said in an interview. “I want my daughters to have the opportunities that I had, and that’s what concerns me. That’s what keeps me up awake at night, not worrying about who’s sleeping with who.”
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), a 32-year veteran of Congress, never a man of many words, simply said, “I don’t hear it discussed much.”
Even die-hard social conservatives like Texas Republican Louie Gohmert aren’t digging in.
“That’s not something we’re focused on now,” Gohmert said.
Social issues haven’t fully escaped the party. They’ve worked vociferously to ensure the federal government doesn’t spend money on Planned Parenthood and talked for weeks about the contraception mandate and religious liberty.
But there’s no question that for Republicans, the politics of gay rights has dramatically changed. In 1994, lawmakers say, there was “sticker shock” when President Bill Clinton created “don’t ask, don’t tell” for the military. They dashed to the House floor to rail on what they perceived as his immorality.
“It’s been realized that back in ’94, you could jump up on the House floor and pound your chest about [gay issues], and secure a good voter intensity, which you can’t do anymore,” Kingston said, describing the shifting dynamics of the issue.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released earlier this month showed a 9 percent increase in support for gay marriage among Republicans to 31 percent. Support among 18-to-34-year-olds was nearly 70 percent, according to a 2011 Washington Post/ABC News poll.
The Senate also has undergone a shift. When Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) held the first hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act since it became law, few Republicans showed up and those who were there didn’t use it as an opportunity for fire-and-brimstone speeches on same-sex unions.
National party operatives have taken notice. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions all did fundraisers in the 2010 cycle with the national gay and lesbian GOP grass-roots organization, Log Cabin Republicans.
The group’s Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper said that while the three party leaders got flak for doing the events, they stood their ground.
“Twenty years ago they would have thrown us under the bus,” Cooper said. The group recently hosted a 40th birthday fundraiser for Priebus.
Even among the most conservative ranks there has been some softening. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) — who holds a 93 percent lifetime score with the American Conservative Union — recently attended a Log Cabin Republican meeting in Houston. Poe’s office said his “views on same-sex marriage have not changed, however, he found that there were plenty of things they did agree on and he really enjoyed listening to what they had to say.”
Even liberal champions of gay rights — like Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) see the political evolution.
“Republicans see an issue that was a good wedge issue no longer is and will be a losing issue in the future,” Nadler told POLITICO. “They can’t just walk away from it; their base will get mad at them. They’re slowly walking away from it because it’s an increasingly losing issue.”
At Third Way, the prominent centrist think tank has undertaken a bipartisan “Commitment Campaign” pushing gay marriage. The group has made it easier for lawmakers to shift views on the issue, laying out steps for elected officials to change their position.
Leadership, too, has played a role. At the top levels of House Republican leadership, aides have tried to “quell” legislative proposals on the sanctity of marriage.
It’s not that Republicans have completely given up on the issue.
Human Rights Campaign’s Michael Cole-Schwartz said that while there has been a shift, “the House Republican leadership has not been friendly to the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community.”
“Substantively there has not been a lot of progress getting made even if the rhetoric has toned down a bit,” Cole-Schwartz said.
Much to the chagrin of many Democrats, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is spending millions of dollars on defending DOMA. But gay-rights activists said the decision to keep it in the court and not force a floor vote was illustrative of GOP leadership’s feelings on the issue.
“A lot of moderate Democrats would be scared to vote on DOMA,” Third Way’s Lanae Erickson said. “There was no question House Republicans were going to defend DOMA … but they made it as low profile as humanly possible.”
Some members have tried to introduce bills to cut back on same-sex rights, but they’ve been few and far between.
The House passed an amendment that prohibited chaplains from performing same-sex marriages on Navy bases. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) introduced the Marriage Protection Act of 2011, which banned federal courts from hearing same-sex marriage cases, instead kicking them to states. But even he said he didn’t expect anything to be done at the federal level.
”I still feel very strongly about that because I think it has a great deal to do with the stability of the whole country,” Burton said. “I don’t know that people’s opinions have changed that much, but what I think has happened is that people realize the dire straits this country has been in and they think we better deal with that before we get back to the social issues.”
Most Republicans maintain that the commitment is still there — but the time is not right.
“I don’t think there is any less commitment on the part of conservatives and Republicans to protect traditional America values,” said Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee. “I think that’s still strong, but I also understand that a lot of families across the [country] are very nervous and concerned about our fiscal and economic situation.”
Then there are those Republicans who have been fighting for gay rights for decades — people like Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Ros-Lehtinen, who has a transgender son named Rodrigo, was the first Republican to co-sponsor the repeal of DOMA.
“Also,” she wrote in an email to POLITICO, “the younger generation is not as fixated on many social issues, as important as they are to other folks. Marriage equality is an issue that is evolving in people’s minds and hearts. As with many controversial issues, the passage of time makes us more comfortable with change.”
HUFF POST POLITICS Posted: 03/19/2012 12:59 pm
President Obama has been called on the carpet yet again by some gay activists for not forcefully and unequivocally saying “I support gay marriage.” This doesn’t mean simply his backing full equality, civil rights, and civil unions for gays, or support for gays in the military, calls on UN to end discrimination against gays, making supportive speeches to gay rights groups, or strongly opposing the seemingly never-ending ballot initiatives and legislative efforts to outlaw gay marriage. He’s done all of that. No, he must say the words, “I support gay marriage” to fully satisfy some gay rights activists. The “some” is a crucial qualifier. Many gay rights activists understand that a GOP White House would be beyond a horror. GOP Presidential contender Mitt Romney would subtly, and GOP Presidential contender Rick Santorum would openly, back any and every anti-gay rights initiative measure, and piece of legislation any and everywhere in the country. But the president is different. He is clearly a friend of the gay rights movement, and an African American so therefore more, much more, is expected of him.
However, the 2012 election will be, as it was in 2008, a numbers, not a percentage game. This means that Obama must not just get a majority of gay votes which he’s assured of. It means he must stir passion, excitement, and enthusiasm among gay voters as he did in 2008. This translates directly into numbers, and in the key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida with a large number of gay voters and an even larger number of conservative Christian evangelical voters, any slack off in the number of gay voters that turn out in November would be a hard blow to the president.
But President Obama would have to totally reverse his cautious approach to politically loaded issues to say once and for all: “I support gay marriage.” It would also be the final test of his fundamental and personal beliefs. He’s made those beliefs clear on several occasions when he flatly said he wouldn’t sign on to same sex marriage because of his “understandings” of what traditional marriage should be. He later softened that to the equally cautious note that he’s “evolving” on the issue.
Obama is no different than many other moderate, tolerant and broad minded African Americans on diversity issues. But he, like many others, still can draw the line on gay marriage and that’s fueled by deeply ingrained notions of family, church, and community, and the need to defend the terribly frayed and fragmented black family structure. This mix of fear, belief, and traditional family protectionism has long been a staple among many blacks and virtually every time the issue of legalizing gay marriage has been put to the ballot, or initiative, or a legal challenge, or just simply the topic of public debate there has been no shortage of black ministers and public figures willing to rush to the defense of traditional marriage.
At the same time, polls have shown that anti-gay attitudes among blacks have softened at least publicly among many blacks. But the line continues to be just as firmly drawn among many blacks on same sex marriage. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (in polls in 2009 and 2010) found that blacks opposed same sex marriage by gaping margins over whites or Hispanics. The finding was even more striking in that Pew also found that for the first time in the decade and half that it had been polling Americans on attitudes toward gay rights, and that includes gay marriage, that less than half of Americans opposed same sex marriage.
The Pew poll is in line with other polls that show that the number of Americans that either outright back gay marriage, are or tolerant or indifferent toward it, is inching toward a majority nationally. The number that supports gay marriage has topped a majority in the states that have legalized it. But those states are still in the numbers minority, and the public acceptance of it is hardly evenly widespread. In the Deep South, parts of the West, and in the Midwest, gay marriage still stirs anger and loathing among many. Presidents, like other elected officials, take keen note of the polarizing impact of gay marriage.
President Obama, though, has not taken the final step and said, “I support gay marriage,” solely because of narrow religious beliefs, conservative family upbringing, or a racial herd mentality that is unyielding on the traditional defense of family values. However, these are factors that have made for pause and caution by him. Still, Obama still has gotten it mostly right on gay rights, and given the grim GOP presidential alternative and the near certainty that he’ll eventually get it right to the total satisfaction of gay activists in full support of gay marriage, to hold his refusal to utter the final words and endorse gay marriage now is worse than dumb and silly; it is politically suicidal.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.
Posted on Advocate.com February 26, 2012 01:55:54 PM ET | By Lucas Grindley
Rick Santorum Tells Two Whoppers
Rick Santorum tried yet again to pretend on Meet the Press today that he doesn’t talk about social issues, and in response he got a swift dressing down from moderator David Gregory. But that didn’t stop Santorum from telling an even bigger whopper, claiming no proof exists that he wants to impose his own values on other Americans.
“These are my personal held religious beliefs,” Santorum said. “There is no evidence at all that I want to impose those values on anyone else.”
Lately, Santorum has regularly claimed he doesn’t actually talk about social issues. Instead, it’s a myth perpetuated as part of a “game” the media plays, he’s said. After the CNN debate in Arizona this week, Santorum predictably attacked moderator John King for asking him about contraception, for example. And before that, he sniped at a television reporter in Michigan for asking about whether same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt.
So today it was Gregory’s turn, and he asked about Santorum’s past criticism of President John F. Kennedy for saying a president’s religious views should be separate from policy. He noted that Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel has called Santorum “Moralizer in Chief” for his belief that contraception and homosexuality, among other things, are against God’s will.
“It’s so funny,” Santorum started to answer Gregory’s question with a smirk. “I get the question all the time, why are you talking so much about the social issues as people ask me about the social issues —”
“Senator, no wait a minute,” Gregory interrupted him. “You talk about this stuff every week, and by the way, it’s not just in this campaign.”
Gregory had done his research. (And so have we; check out our list of some of the many places on the campaign trail where Santorum’s gone antigay.)
“I’ve gone back years when you’ve been in public life, and you have made this a centerpiece of your public life,” Gregory lectured. “So the notion that these are not deeply held views worthy of question and scrutiny, it’s not just about the press.”
Santorum admitted that, “Yeah, they are deeply held views, but they are not what I dominantly talk about.” And then he implored Gregory to “look at my record, I never wanted to impose any of the things that you’ve just talked about.”
The list of reasons why that statement isn’t true would, of course, have to start with Santorum twice signing pledges that, if elected, he would ban same-sex marriage via an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He’s said that would also immediately annul the marriages of thousands of same-sex couples and have the effect, he has promised, of banning adoption by those same couples. Santorum has actually bragged about being one of the original authors of the “Federal Marriage Amendment” that would do all of that.
Posted on Advocate.com February 28, 2012 10:00:00 AM ET | By Julie Bolcer
The Portland Press Herald reports on the move from the high court, which let stand a ruling from the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld Maine election laws as constitutional. The law requires groups that raise or spend more than $5,000 to influence decisions to register and disclose their donors.
“The National Organization for Marriage filed its lawsuit in 2009, claiming that Maine laws violated its constitutional rights to free speech and due process,” the Press Herald reports. “Maine defended those laws, saying they are designed to inform voters about who is spending money to influence their votes.”
A separate appeal that would permit NOM to shield its donor list is still pending. The organization is seeking to avoid revealing the identities of donors who gave more than $100 to the campaign against same-sex marriage.
NOM gave nearly $2 million in 2009 to Stand for Marriage Maine, the PAC that helped repeal the state’s marriage equality law in a referendum. Last week, the Maine Secretary of Stateconfirmed that same-sex marriage advocates had collected enough valid signatures to bring the issue back to the ballot this fall, where polls show that a majority of voters support marriage equality.