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    November 01, 2007

    Obama and gay marriage

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamarocks762526 Fresh off the senseless flap over an "ex-gay" gospel singer on his campaign tour, Barack Obama was hit with questions about gay marriage three times this week, two of them on national television.

    Alex Lamb, a gay student from Coe College, asked about the issue during a MTV/MySpace event that was broadcast live nationally, acknowledging in his question that Obama (like all the leading Democrats) favors civil unions and not marriage:

    I want to make sure those civil unions are exactly equal in how the federal government treats people. Right now there are about 1,200 laws that are not applying to people with civil unions even if those civil unions are recognized by the states, and as president of the United States I want to change it.

    (Video of the exchange, along with a follow-up question about the "ex-gay" controversy, follows in the jump).

    He reiterated his support for civil unions at a smaller Iowa gathering later in the day, and in specifics that we never hear from front-runner Hillary Clinton. The Des Moines Register reports:

    At the Cedar Rapids Public Library, Abbi Swanson wanted to know what the U.S. senator from Illinois would do to help her son, who is gay, gain the same marital protections as heterosexuals.

    Obama repeated his stand that he is against gay marriage, but for civil unions that offer the same benefits as traditional marriage. He told about 150 people at the library that he couldn't endorse traditional marriage for gay and lesbian families.

    "You want the word marriage and I believe that the issue of marriage has become so entangled -- the word marriage has become so entangled with religion -- that it makes more sense for me as president, with that authority, to talk about the civil rights that are conferred" with civil unions, Obama said. Individual denominations should make the decisions about what to recognize as a marriage, he said.

    Obamaellenblog Then finally, after dancing his way on to Ellen DeGeneres' daytime chat show, Obama put an exclamation point on his civil unions support:

    "You know what I would do is immediately set up a civil union that is equal in federal rights so that all the states, all the rights that are conferred by the states are the same for gays and lesbians, same sex couples as for any other couple," he said. "In terms of marriage, what I would do is I would say each religious denomination can make their own decision."

    The commitment to push civil unions at the federal level "immediately" is fairly unprecedented, as Jennifer Vanasco pointed out. That puts him far out in front of Hillary or John Edwards, who have stayed very very vague on what exactly "civil unions" means to them.  Obama is talking about the federal government treating state-issued civil unions the same as it does state-issued married licenses. That would represent huge progress.

    But it still leaves out gay married couples (in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and elsewhere), as well as long-term gay couples in states that don't have marriage or civil unions (or domestic partnerships like in California, Washington, Hawaii, etc.).  Obama has said he favors repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (not half-repeal like Hillary) so that would take care of married couples, and his questionnaire to the Human Rights Campaign favored federal recognition for long-term couples as well. 

    Finally, there is the sticky issue of religion and marriage. Obama has repeated the theme of leaving marriage to religion, which generally angers gays because we seek civil marriage, not to force religious denominations to wed us.  Obama clearly knows that, so why does he keep saying it?

    I think the answer is in the MTV/My Space event, where he talked about how marriage has become "entangled" with religion. He's actually got that backward, since marriage was a religious institution that became "entangled" with civil rights and responsibilities. Either way, he's clearly right about why marriage is such a time-bomb of a word for most people.

    I suggested years ago, when Vermont first created civil unions for gay couples, that the government simply extend "civil unions" to everyone and leave the word "marriage" entirely to the private sphere. That will never happen anytime soon, but it's the direction Obama seems to be headed. And since he is reiterating that civil unions won't impact religious marriage, which is true, his overall point is well taken.

    He would do well, however, to reiterate that gays aren't even seeking to infringe on religious denominations; otherwise this religion issue is a straw man is of his own making and will continue to rankle.

    For a complete gay news summary on the Democratic presidential primary, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/demprimary



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    1. Geena the Transgirl on Nov 1, 2007 4:55:15 PM:

      Good point, small modification

      He did say "Individual denominations should make the
      decisions about what to recognize as a marriage".
      Hence, Obama would do better to state HIS proposals aren't seeking to infringe on religious denominations,
      rather than
      >He would do well, however, to reiterate that gays aren't
      >even seeking to infringe on religious denominations;
      Since Obama cannot speak for an individual's religious motivations

    1. Lucrece on Nov 1, 2007 4:58:33 PM:

      About the entangling: Not really. Marriage was more of a communal institution than a religious one. It then over the years evolved into an exchange of goods and compromise to extend family lines, where it picked up religious connotations. Marriage was never created by religion. Just as some have claimed, it has become misappropriated. Obama's deference of marriage to religious institution is insulting, not that the other candidates have done better. However, no other candidate has pandered to the religious sector as much as Obama, not even Clinton and her Time magazine interviews.

      There is a reason he does this, though. Polls show that blacks support Hillary over him in some states, and what better than to court a nigh theocratic culture? Well, gospel concerts and appointing reverends to his staff, of course!

      The change in this election race has been that the Democrats have been courting the religious sector's vote more than any other recent election race.

    1. Charlotte on Nov 1, 2007 5:08:36 PM:

      Shame on You Obama.....
      Obama opposes Gay Marriage. Jack O'Dell, former Southern Christian Leadership Conference activist
      & aide to Dr. Martin Luther King states "Dr. King
      would have fully supported Gay Marriage."
      Coretta Scott King agreed.

    1. Sean on Nov 1, 2007 5:20:59 PM:

      Vanasco. Do you think she has an agenda? Like illegal immigration.

      Obama is done. A couple nights ago at the Democratic debate he said he favored giving ILLEGAL immigrants driver's license. That is automatic citizenship. You can do anything with a driver’s license; vote to buy a plane ticket. Here is a guy that will not give full citizenship to GAY AMERICANS but will pass out citizenship to NON-Americans. They break the laws and then they are rewarded for it while I'm punished for being gay. Hillary is even worse.

      I’m moving over to the Edwards camp. I’m sick of the Democratic party pandering to people that are NOT American.

      No borders, No United States.

    1. Rob Power on Nov 1, 2007 5:40:44 PM:

      "He's actually got that backward, since marriage was a religious institution that became "entangled" with civil rights and responsibilities."

      Sorry, Chris. That's incorrect. Marriage came first, and then organized religion co-opted it. Just as people decorated evergreen trees during the winter long before Jesus was born, yet we now call such things "Christmas Trees," people were married long before organized religion declared marriage a sacrament.

    1. Sean on Nov 1, 2007 7:16:15 PM:

      Forget Edwards, he's just like Hillary and Obama. Illegal immigration will be the death nail for this country.

      Thanks Rob for telling the history of marriage and other supposed Christian traditions.

    1. Andoni on Nov 1, 2007 8:36:41 PM:

      I'm a little tired of the way our community seems to operate. The minute we find one thing about a candidate that offends us or that we disagree with, we push the "dump" button and move on to the next candidate. The positives to negatives for the candidate could be 99 to 1, but the minute we find one thing wrong, we dump. We dumped Richardson over his mis-statement that sexual orientation was a "choice." It sounds like a lot of our community dumped Obama because of the McClurkin flap.

      Using this method of thinking or rather, reacting, we end up with a candidate who does nothing to offend us. But guess whet, for a candidate to do nothing to offend us means that that candidate probably doesn't take any strong positions, and therefore will do NOTHING FOR US.

      This is a very immature way to operate.

      Wake up community. Do you want a candidate who is 99 -1 or 90-10 for us, or will you settle for a 0-0 candidate?

    1. Citizen Crain on Nov 1, 2007 10:23:59 PM:

      Well said, Andoni. I think we should be clear with criticism of candidates but especially in a presidential race we must remember that all of them, including Giuliani on the GOP side, have positives and negatives. Even if gay issues are your single most important issue, and they certainly rank very high for me, it comes down to who has the best combination of positions and likelihood of carrying them out -- with at least a minimal likelihood of winning.

      Richardson has all sorts of problems beyond his "choice" and "maricón" gaffes, but he has the best record of gay rights accomplishments.

      Obama has the best positions on paper (except for Dennis "UFO" Kucinich); better than Hillary (half-repeal of DOMA) and with a stronger voice as well.

      To the extent other issues come to play, I agree with Sean that immmigration is important. I am on the complete other side, however. I would open our borders to the greatest extent possible, in tribute to those original illegal immigrants, the Founding Fathers.

      I would extend driver's licenses, social services and every other indicia of citizenship, so long as they pay taxes and stay out of trouble. If anything, Hillary tried to play both sides of the fence on the immigration issue, like she (and her husband) always does.

    1. Sean on Nov 2, 2007 8:24:46 AM:

      Chris, I want to know if your boyfriend and friends in Brazil would like open borders for their country?

    1. From Canada on Nov 3, 2007 12:22:16 AM:

      I am with Chris on the immigration issue. Canada has relatively lax immigration laws compared to the US, and it has only improved the Canadian economy and the country as a whole. While the US is closing itself off from the rest of the world, Canada welcomes its immigrants. Meanwhile the Canadian dollar surpasses the US dollar. Coincidence? "illegal" = xenophobia

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