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    January 13, 2009

    Barack Obama's gay marriage closet

    Posted by: Chris

    Barackobamawctphoto Just how many gay marriage skeletons does Barack Obama have hiding in the closet?  Eighteen months after we first learned the president-elect had given conflicting answers about the Defense of Marriage Act in candidate questionnaires back in 2003 and 2004, a new, even bigger bombshell has come to light.

    Just one week before Obama takes the oath of office, a gay newspaper in Chicago is reporting that the president-elect vowed to support marriage equality for same-sex couples when he was a candidate for the Illinois state Senate way back in 1996.

    Windy City Times editor Tracy Baim, who was the co-founder and publisher of the gay paper Outlines, which later merged with WCT, reported today:

    IMPACT, which was Chicago's main GLBT political action committee for several years, surveyed Obama and other candidates, as did Outlines. What we are including with this special Presidential Inaugural issue of Windy City Times are copies of the answers to the IMPACT and Outlines questions.

    For IMPACT, the Obama campaign simply responded on the form. For Outlines, the candidate typed in his answers and signed his letter.

    It's a great scoop for Tracy, though her analysis raises a couple of questions for me: Why assume "the candidate typed in his answers" to the Outlines questionnaire, and why not assume that the handwritten responses to the IMPACT questionnaire were not by the candidate?

    The usual course is for these types of questionnaires to completed by campaign staff and signed by the candidate, which can lead to later embarrassment -- or plausible deniability, however you want to look at it. However important these surveys can be in pinning down politicians, I've long viewed them with skepticism, including the survey responses by Obama on gay marriage that previously surfaced during the primaries. 

    Thedocument But as much as these newly surfacing questionnaires from 1996 confirm my original intuition that Obama's apparent flip-flop on the Defense of Marriage Act was really just an erroneous questionnaire response, they pretty much have him dead to rights on the less subtle issue of gay marriage itself.

    There is zero doubt in my mind that a candidate of Obama's intellect and political savvy knew what he was doing, and the political risk he was taking, when he voiced support for gay marriage back in 1996, only months after the issue burst onto the political scene because the Hawaii Supreme Court had indicated it was ready to strike down hetero-only marriage laws.

    His response to the '96 Outlines questionnaire, signed by the candidate, indicates, "I favor legalizing same-sex marriage, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."

    In similar fashion the handwritten response to the IMPACT questionnaire indicates Obama "would support" something called "the Marriage Resolution," which in turn states:

    Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual personal choice,
    RESOLVED, the state should not interfere with same-gender couples who chose to marry and share equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of civil marriage.

    1996IMPACTObamapg3 That's two very clear indications that Barack Obama supported marriage equality back in 1996, the same year Congress passed DOMA, which he later called an "abhorrent law" that "perpetuates divisions."

    One final indication that Obama backed gay marriage and later "evolved" to supporting civil unions as a strategic matter: the man said so himself in a 2004 interview with the one and the same Tracy Baim:

    Tracy Baim: Do you have a position on marriage vs. civil unions?

    Barack Obama: I am a fierce supporter of domestic- partnership and civil-union laws. I am not a supporter of gay marriage as it has been thrown about, primarily just as a strategic issue.

    I think that marriage, in the minds of a lot of voters, has a religious connotation. I know that's true in the African-American community, for example. And if you asked people, ‘should gay and lesbian people have the same rights to transfer property, and visit hospitals, and et cetera,' they would say, ‘absolutely.' And then if you talk about, ‘should they get married?', then suddenly ...

    TB: There are more than 1,000 federal benefits that come with marriage. Looking back in the 1960s and inter-racial marriage, the polls showed people against that as well.

    Obama: Since I'm a product of an interracial marriage, I'm very keenly aware of ...

    TB: But you think, strategically, gay marriage isn't going to happen so you won't support it at this time?

    Obama: What I'm saying is that strategically, I think we can get civil unions passed. I think we can get SB 101 passed. I think that to the extent that we can get the rights, I'm less concerned about the name. And I think that is my No. 1 priority, is an environment in which the Republicans are going to use a particular language that has all sorts of connotations in the broader culture as a wedge issue, to prevent us moving forward, in securing those rights, then I don't want to play their game.

    No reading between the lines required here, friends. The man who will be president in one week supports full marriage equality and backs civil unions as the expedient path to get there. That's true whether you agree or disagree with his political analysis, and I definitely take issue with his excuse-making and rationalizations.

    The point is, we've got the goods on the soon-to-be former-president-elect, and this latest finding should give us greater confidence to push with full force for real gay rights progress, meaning a federal civil unions bill that would extend those "more than 1,000 federal benefits that come with marriage" to every gay couple who wants them in all 50 states -- and even for those ex-pats stuck living in "love exile."



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    1. Strict Scrutiny on Jan 14, 2009 1:29:40 AM:

      The man who will be president in one week supports full marriage equality and backs civil unions as the expedient path to get there.

      I think a more apt analysis would be, "The man who will be president in one week is politically savvy and knows he'd have a hard time gaining the religious vote if he said 'YES' to gay marriage, so he shrewdly back-pedaled on his previous position."

      Obama is all over the map on gay marriage. First he supported it, then he said, "civil unions" when he decided to run for president. During the primaries, he made several specious arguments to rationalize his anti-marriage stance, but then said Prop 8 was a bad idea. So what does he really think?

      My guess is that deep down he's all in favor of same-sex marriage. Good for him. But he knows that publicly supporting gay marriage is political poison. So, he talks out of both sides of his mouth and tries to straddle the fence to keep everyone happy.

      I agree that Obama's support for civil unions is genuine and a great sign. I pray that he will repeal DOMA and/or sign a federal civil unions bill. Either or both of these would be tremendous steps in advancement of GLBT equality.

      But seriously, why does he have to equivocate so much. Where is the moral vision and leadership on the marriage issue?

    1. Andoni on Jan 14, 2009 7:36:54 AM:

      OK folks, so we have the goods on him. I never doubted that a man of his background, intellect and stated positions on discrimination could ever NOT back marriage equality....when the time was right. If you think he is being slippery, political, devious, etc, you should read Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals." Honest Abe (Lincoln) is considered one of the most forthright and best leaders of all time. However, on some of the biggest and most controversial issues of his time (slavery, emancipation, war, reconstruction) he made statements to cover both sides of an argument (but always leaning to the correct or moral position), so as to not be pinned down and lose half the country. Lincoln was somewhat slippery (even when he knew exactly how he really felt and what he would really do) until the time was ripe for an important decision and action. Once the decision was made, announced, and vigorously went forward and defended that decision and never retreated. One of his gifts was a great sense of timing as to when to come out and take a strong stand on a very controversial position. He was usually just far enough ahead of public opinion that his decisions were brave and truly leading the public, but not politically suicidal. Once he felt the timing was proper he was able to sell his idea to the public because of his great timing and great skills to make moral arguments the public could understand.

      I hope (and think) this is a model that Obama will try to follow and I have no problem with his seemingly not quite there yet on same sex marriage. It really does parallel Lincoln. At the core, I am fairly confident he is on our side and when the time is ripe will come out and announce and defend that position vigorously....just like Lincoln.

    1. Lucrece on Jan 14, 2009 9:16:31 AM:

      Andoni, how about setting you up on a date with Bilerico's Michael Crawford? I'm sure you'll forget about your foreign love as soon as the Obama groveling session kicks in.

    1. JP on Jan 14, 2009 1:45:54 PM:

      Good article and good comments.

      There is a strong case to be made for taking a number of moderate sized steps to reach a desired destination, and a Federal Civil Unions bill and a repeal of DOMA would be great steps toward full marriage equality. I'm all for taking those steps, but in the end I DO want full equality, and sooner rather than later. I think we as a community have to keep pushing on BOTH fronts (as well as pushing to get rid of DADT, enact hate crimes legislation, ect.) We need to be clear about what our final destination is, but also be happy with each step toward that destination that is made.

      But it does get exhausting to hear politicians shift and switch their positions on our rights so often and easily. Even if there is a real political need to, (and in THIS case of Marriage Equality I personally don't think that there was,) it can be irritating and hurtful. In the end I find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to truly respect any individual who is so willing to backtrack on civil rights issues. I hope that Obama can really accomplish a lot with regards to gay rights issues, but I think he has already permanently lost my deepest respect.

    1. brandykon8 on Jan 15, 2009 2:33:54 AM:

      .This problem is always talked about by LGBT. I have read many articles about it. Gay marriage has been accepted by most of people. It would be really nice. and I am as a bisexual here show my gratitude for your being so open-minde. "What about adopting a child for us?" is always the popular quesiton for LBGT, espcially for bisexual at Bimingle.com . There is no dout that we all love the world, love the children, and do not mean to hurt anybody. Hopefully, everybody can accept us.

    1. Closet on Jan 28, 2009 4:00:38 AM:


      Definitely it is a good article. Thanks to the Chris for posting this blog entry and giving me the chance of commenting on this blog entry!!!!!!!

      - Thompson.

    1. Tom on Aug 2, 2010 1:24:54 AM:

      Obama does not support gay marriage, he must be a homophobia. He must hate gay people.!!

    1. Thobz on Oct 23, 2010 3:51:19 AM:

      Now we all know Obama is the most pro-gay president this country will ever, let's enjoy while it lasts, hopefully he gets a second term

    1. montana divorce on Dec 14, 2010 2:09:36 AM:

      Today, the cultural battle now rocking America concerning marriage and the right of homosexual males and females to have recognition of same-sex marriages is considered by many to be a virtual attack on civilization as we know it.

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