Marriage equality: Obama dare not speak his support

Kerry Eleveld’s latest column gets into an issue the Obama administration desperately wants to avoid: marriage equality. I think Kerry captures the situation perfectly:

In fact, I get the distinct feeling that the White House hopes it can simply duck the marriage question straight through 2012, and I’d also bet dollars to doughnuts it won’t be able to. What became clear to me while interviewing attendees of the August 6 meeting was that while the friendly audience may have cut the administration some slack on legislative items like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Defense of Marriage Act, the one place advocates unapologetically stood their ground was on marriage equality.

Why? Because on that issue state activists have been the proverbial tip of the spear, if you will. They may not have a front-row seat to the maddening process of trying to chisel equality from the gut of an ossified federal government, but state-by-state they have shed blood, sweat, and tears for the recognition of their love and their families.

No one more clearly conveyed this point to me than Michael Kenny of the Florida Together Federation, who was at the White House briefing.

“We want and deserve absolute full marriage equality, and we’re not going to be satisfied until the president is advocating for it himself,” Kenny said. “It’s heartbreaking because we fought marriage amendments here in ’08 and we were really in the trenches. We made personal sacrifices for months and in some cases years, and then we watched discrimination be enshrined the state constitution.”

Make no mistake, this is an issue that the president’s chief advisers have misjudged from day one. They underestimated how angry people were that candidate Barack Obama wasn’t more vocal in his opposition to Proposition 8; they dismissed the devastation felt by millions of queers who poured their hearts into electing Obama only to watch Prop. 8 proponent Rick Warren give the invocation at the inauguration; they remained silent in 2009 as gay Mainers fought to preserve their right to love, marry, and build a life with their partner; and then David Axelrod reassured the nation two weeks ago that the president still opposes granting the freedom to marry to all Americans.

When Gibbs lampooned the professional left it was code for, “Oh, it’s just those coastal big-city liberals pushing their intemperate views in the media again.”

But that couldn’t be further from the truth on the issue of marriage equality after the sting of bigotry tromped from Florida to Maine to California and nearly every state in between. The president and his advisers may hope to stay below the radar on the question of marriage straight through 2012, but they are flying blind if they can’t see that activists across the nation are already seething.

The question I have is: Do the president and his advisers even care? They sure haven’t given any indication that they do.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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