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    January 14, 2009

    Obama's gay marriage closet (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    Some have reacted to news that Barack Obama unequivocally supported gay marriage when he ran for the Illinois state Senate in 1996 by saying they've always assumed that leading gay-friendly politicians were closeted supporters of marriage equality, despite their public opposition.

    Others, myself included, reacted by giving Obama a bit of a pass because we perceive the political climate on gay marriage, while improving, as too hostile except in certain geographic pockets.

    Advocatehillary In reality, both sets of assumptions may well be wrong. For one thing, there are generational and faith-based reasons why even the politicians we assume are our closest friends continue to resist full marriage equality. Hillary Clinton, for example, shot down one reporter's concerted attempt to get her to send some sort of signal along those lines:

    We’re supposed to be convinced that this brilliant Yale-educated lawyer and lifelong feminist, who hobnobs in Martha’s Vineyard and Malibu with her well-heeled friends from the business and entertainment worlds -- who famously declared that women’s rights were human rights at the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing while China was on lockdown -- is having trouble with the concept of same-sex marriage? Could [Hillary Clinton] perhaps be a closet supporter of marriage equality? …

    But when I suggest that her “personal position” is actually not her position at all, she quickly interrupts me, sitting up in her chair with a start.

    “I don’t think that would be fair,” she says. “Because, you know, I would tell you that. This is an issue -- I’m much older than you are -- and this is an issue that I’ve had very few years of my life to think about when you really look at it, when you compare it to a whole life span. I am where I am right now, and it is a position that I come to authentically. But it is also one that has enormous room and support both in my heart and in my work to try to move the agenda of equality and civil unions forward.”

    I'm as cynical as the next guy -- OK, even more so -- about Hillary's ability to give a straightforward answer about pretty much anything. But I also think she could have signaled that she was further along personally if she had wanted to, much as Obama did and much as Bill Richardson did during the primaries.

    Evan_wolfson As for giving politicians something of a pass in today's political climate, a new report by Evan Wolfson's Freedom to Marry organization "unequivocally" showed that "voting to support the freedom to marry and opposing anti-marriage measures helps rather than hurts politicians":

    A review of all of these votes from 2005 to the present shows that legislators who vote to end marriage discrimination for same-sex couples are consistently re-elected.  The success of more than 1,100 state legislators who voted to support the freedom to marry stands in bold contrast to the commonly held belief that supporting marriage equality ends political campaigns and careers.  In fact, these legislators are re-elected no matter what party they represent or if they changed their vote from opposing to supporting marriage equality.  Even better, legislators who run for higher office win after voting in favor of marriage for same-sex couples.

    The study, which included votes over the last four years from 21 different states taken in each of the country's four major regions of the country, is available for download here.



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    1. JP on Jan 15, 2009 9:33:46 AM:

      I commented on the first post on "Obama's gay marriage closet" that I didn't think Obama's supporting gay marriage would have hurt him in this election at all. I think this report backs that opinion up. At the end of the day though, I just can not respect politicians who are willing to change their opinions, especially opinions which affect my civil rights so profoundly, for political expediency.

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