As you know, last week the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8, the proposition which repealed the right of gay couples to marry. Obama was asked about gay marriage three days after the Prop 8 decision, and a good month after numerous states suddenly legalized gay marriages. There is no way that Obama wasn’t prepared for a question on gay marriage. Yet, when he got one, he gave a somewhat haltingly answer that seemed to suggest he wasn’t prepared for, or comfortable with, the question. Watch this video, it’s only 42 seconds long, then I’ll provide a bit more analysis.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Do gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry in this country have a friend in the White House?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think gays and lesbians, uh, have a friend in the White House (pause) because I’ve consistently committed myself to civil unions, making sure that they have the ability to visit each other in hospitals, uh, that they are able to access benefits, uh, that they are, uh, have a whole host of legal rights that they currently, uh, do not have. Uh, I don’t think that, uh, it makes sense for, uh, the federal government to get in the business of determining what marriage is, uh, that isn’t, uh, traditionally the federal government’s role.
A few things. First, to his credit, Obama is trying to slowly and gingerly back away from his previous opposition to gay marriage. He no longer said he opposes gay marriages, but rather, he enumerated a few rights he does support (including hospital visits), and then said that the federal government has no business being in the business of marriage.
As for that last part, it was the only part of the answer where Politician Obama, who dominated the first part of the answer, gave way to Professor Obama, the guy who’s an expert on constitutional law. When you strip away the calculated politics of the first part of his answer, Obama seems to believe that the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of regulating marriages, period – straight or gay. That’s a very interesting, and I suspect somewhat controversial, answer. Yes, traditionally states set marriage law. But, fortunately for Obama’s parents, as we saw in Loving v. Virginia, the famous Supreme Court miscegenation case, there are times when the federal government steps in and tells states that they’re wrong.
And Obama’s answer about believing gay partners should get benefits, but that gay marriage isn’t a federal issue, doesn’t make sense at all. Because of DOMA, because of the 1200 or so federal benefits accorded to marriage, it is very much a federal issue. Obama will need to lead the way in getting Congress to overturn DOMA, otherwise his promise of partner benefits is meaningless.
Obama gets 2 points for trying to moderate his previous statements against gay marriage. But I suspect Obama’s position against marriage was a politically expedient lie from the beginning, and now the effort to slowly undo that lie is tying Obama in contradictory knots.
The question is posed once again: Who is advising Obama on gay issues? Whoever that Rasputin is, speaking in Obama’s ear, they’ve made a real mess of a man who once was clear cut on where he stood on these issues.