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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

An Inconvenient Truth (Updated with video)

UPDATE: During an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts on Thursday President Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage:

In an interview with ABC News, Obama said, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”


   “I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.” http://2012.talkingpointsmemo….

This wasn’t easy at least politically-speaking.  And we can debate whether or not it was smart or whether or not VP Biden’s remarks on Sunday were pre-planned or not.  At this point, today, all I want to say is, “Thank you, Mr. President.”

Vice President Biden made a bit of news on Sunday on Meet the Press when he expressed support for same-sex marriage:

“I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties,” Biden said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”…

Oops!  Almost immediately the Administration began to walk those comments back saying that, like the president, Biden’s position is “evolving” on the issue and that his comments represent no change in the Administration’s current policy.  David Axelrod took to Twitter:

David Axelrod ‏ @davidaxelrod

@chucktodd @meetthepress What VP said-that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights-is precisely POTUS’s position.

Unfortunately for Axe, that’s not what the Vice President said.  And I do not understand why this is so difficult.

The President has said that his personal belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman; the official stance now is that his position is “evolving” whatever that means.  But while I disagree with the President’s personal position I am much more interested in his public policy and in that case there is no room for doubt which is why I cannot fathom why the Administration, and the campaign, seems so flat-footed on this.

There is a move to put same-sex marriage on the Democratic platform at the convention.  Obviously, as the head of the party the President’s position is an issue.  But he obviously feels that all couples deserve equal protection so I am unclear as to why this cannot be included as a positive for the Democrats and the campaign.

Republicans have their own issues with the LGBT community that have been highlighted by the recent resignation of Richard Grenell, the openly gay foreign policy spokesman, from the Romney campaign.  Grenell was John Bolton’s spokesman at the UN and as such was qualified for the position.  Of course, Grenell made a splash after his appointment became public by tweeting sarcastic bits about being a gay Republican and then he went after Rachel Maddow by tweeting that she looked like a man and needed to put on a necklace.  That is, of course, not the first time he displayed misogynistic language.  He had gone after Hillary Clinton and Callista Gingrich as well.  Apparently, assuming the Romney campaign did any homework on Grenell, they were not bothered by those tweets.  Nor were they bothered by reports that Grenell was less than honest while at the UN:

Reuters veteran Irwin Arieff told The Huffington Post that he’s “appalled to hear that the Romney campaign has hired Mr. Grenell in any capacity.” In an email response, Arieff, who worked over two decades at Reuters, including seven years covering the U.N, said he found Grenell “to be the most dishonest and deceptive press person I ever worked with.”

“He often lied, even more frequently offered half answers or withheld information that would weaken his case or reflect poorly on his ideological point of view,” Arieff said. “He was always argumentative with the press, castigating reporters for asking questions he did not like, and calling them to criticize them for writing articles he did not like.”…  

What did get Grenell in trouble, however, was the Religious Right, in the person of Bryan Fischer, howling about how the Romney campaign had hired a guy who openly advocated for same-sex marriage.  Never mind that Grenell had apparently said he would not address that issue during the campaign.  

The Romney campaign’s response was to muzzle Grenell even on a foreign policy conference call he had set up which seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for Grenell.  Well, that and the campaign’s unwillingness to say anything publicly backing Grenell.  Because the Romney campaign knows they need the Right.  Unfortunately for them Romney can’t win for losing because now that Grenell is gone (and apparently working on Mary Bono Mack’s re-election campaign) even Fischer is mocking Romney:

Says Fischer:

… if Mitt Romney can be pushed around, intimidated, coerced, coopted by a conservative radio talk show host in Middle America, then how is he going to stand up to the Chinese? How is he going to stand up to Putin? How is he going to stand up to North Korea if he can be pushed around by a yokel like me?

Read more:…

Frankly I don’t get why someone would support a party, or its nominee, who holds them in such disdain because of who they are.  Grenell was, and is, willing to overlook the part of the GOP that would  deny him a fundamental civil liberty … for what?  Extra tax cuts?  For the notion of “small government” which ignores the government’s intrusion into his bedroom?

Anyway, the Grenell situation highlights a distinct difference between the two parties.  No matter what the President’s personal position on same-sex marriage his Administration’s actions are clear and I cannot understand why someone who speaks so eloquently on a whole host of other issues cannot lay this out so people can understand.


  1. Strummerson

    Seems clear that the administration, like the majority of the party, would like to explicitly fight for marriage equality.  But they need to proceed cautiously.  Elected officials representing a range of interests and policy goals cannot operate like activists or even as individual voters.  The VPs comments are out there.  The attempted retractions and restriction are in place as well.  Now the administration can sit back and gauge reactions.

  2. HappyinVT

    The campaign/administration is desperately trying to fit President’s position in with Biden’s comments on Sunday.  As someone once said if you’re explaining, you’re losing.  This has become muddled when it needed not to have and now the narrative has shifted from Grenell’s resignation/Rmoney’s cowardice to POTUS’s oddly-phrased position on SSM.

    But it’s an election year.

  3. Strummerson

    Gay Marriage: Obama Still Should Stay in the Closet

    by Michael Tomasky  | May 7, 2012 4:57 PM EDT

    No one I’ve read on this gay marriage question seems to be making the obvious (to me) point that if the administration is going to send a pre-election signal in favor of gay marriage, it’s far better for Joe Biden to do it than for Barack Obama to do it.

    Biden is Catholic. He has that working-class, Pennsylvania-style cred. It’s far, far better for Americans to hear that kind of talk from him than from Obama, the black urban liberal cosmopolite. So I’m not so sure this was a gaffe. Or if it was a gaffe, it may have been a happy one.

    I wrote a column about six weeks ago arguing that Obama should not endorse gay marriage before the election, for various political reasons, mostly because the majority that supports same-sex marriage seems a little fragile to me as yet. Liberals like to say, “But it’s the majority view, and it’s what he believes, so what’s the problem?”

    But that’s really simplistic politically. I’d want to know a lot about how that position sits with various voting blocs in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, and Florida. I’d want to know what voting blocs a pre-election public embrace would be more likely to motivate in all those states (and some others). For example, the fact that there is simple majority support in America (and it’s not a huge majority by any means–53, 54 percent) might mean that quite large majorities in a handful of already-blue states support gay marriage. But that would have nothing to do with how independents in Virginia feel. And this is the important point: Wanting to know such things before acting isn’t political cowardice. It’s pollitical horse sense.

    Win the election first. If it appears in September that Obama can win while supporting same-sex marriage, then maybe he should pull the trigger. There are upsides. But if it appears that it will motivate chiefly voters on the other side, it can and should wait. It would be something he could take on early in a second term, and while the wingers would howl, most of America wouldn’t bat an eye.

    Right now, Obama has the advantage over Romney on this issue. Slate’s Dave Weigel picked up today on how RNC Chair Reince Preibus is trying to say there’s no difference between Obama’s and Romney’s positions, an argument that Weigel shredded: Romney has signed the National Organization for Marriage’s five-point reactionary pledge, and virtually each point stakes a position the opposite of Obama’s.

    So the Republicans are on the defensive today, aware that their candidate’s posture is out of the mainstream. There’s no pressing reason for Obama to upset that balance.

  4. DTOzone

    coming from someone in the media.

    This is entirely the media’s attempt to whip up another divisive issue to have endless shouting matches about now that gas prices are dropping and the economy is stable.

  5. HappyinVT

    The interview changes no laws; it has no tangible effect. But it reaffirms for me the integrity of this man we are immensely lucky to have in the White House. Obama’s journey on this has been like that of many other Americans, when faced with the actual reality of gay lives and gay relationships. Yes, there was politics in a lot of it. But not all of it. I was in the room long before the 2008 primaries when Obama spoke to the mother of a gay son about marriage equality. He said he was for equality, but not marriage. Five years later, he sees – as we all see – that you cannot have one without the other. Bu even then, you knew he saw that woman’s son as his equal as a citizen. It was a moment – way off the record at the time – that clinched my support for him.

    Today Obama did more than make a logical step. He let go of fear. He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That’s why we elected him. That’s the change we believed in. The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to “cure” gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?


  6. HappyinVT

    Tweet from Chuck Todd:

    WH aides tell me it’s almost a given gay marriage will be new plank in the Democratic Party platform that’s passed at this year’s convention

  7. HappyinVT

    Senator Jack Reed


    I support same sex marriage and will cosponsor the Respect for Marriage Act. #MarriageEquality #LGBT

    Don’t know why I assumed he already did but Rhode Island Senator follows the lead of POTUS.

  8. HappyinVT

    Tweet from marabout40:

    Please take a moment to thank President Obama for his act of courage today. And if you don’t think what he did was courageous, then fuck you

  9. HappyinVT

    In the first 90 minutes after the news broke today, the Obama campaign received $1 million in spontaneous contributions

    I believe $25 of that was mine.

  10. HappyinVT


    … while swing voters may be ambivalent about gay marriage itself, they’re much less comfortable with displays of intolerance. Many of the same voters who profess squeamishness over the idea would punish a politician for crusading against it. If you don’t believe me, just consider that, prior to this week, the White House was perfectly comfortable opposing bans on gay marriage even though it stopped conspicuously short of embracing gay marriage.

    Unfortunately for Romney, the one thing Obama’s announcement deprives him of is opportunities to duck the issue. Given the way it’s energized conservatives-Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council was quick to thunder that “today’s announcement almost ensures that marriage will again be a major issue in the presidential election”-Romney now faces enormous pressure to amplify his position. Conservatives will ask about it constantly. They will insist on highlighting it in the party platform and at this summer’s convention. Rote box-checking of the sort he’s practiced so far will no longer suffice.

    Whole thing is worth a read.

  11. IL JimP

    James —

    Today, I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer:

    I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

    I hope you’ll take a moment to watch the conversation, consider it, and weigh in yourself on behalf of marriage equality:

    I’ve always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. I was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes. And I thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution.

    But over the course of several years I’ve talked to friends and family about this. I’ve thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships who are raising kids together. Through our efforts to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, I’ve gotten to know some of the gay and lesbian troops who are serving our country with honor and distinction.

    What I’ve come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.

    Even at my own dinner table, when I look at Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples, I know it wouldn’t dawn on them that their friends’ parents should be treated differently.

    So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

    I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.

    If you agree, you can stand up with me here.

    Thank you,


  12. Setting aside the political expediency of the decision to come out of the closet, so to speak, on SSM, this was the right thing to do morally and ethically.

    As to the timing, I think it was fortuitous. Without the President’s statement today, the news would have been all about the strong win by anti-SSM backers in NC last night. I believe that vote was a setback for the cause of SSM. It buoyed up the ranks of the bigots. By speaking today, POTUS took all of the wind out of their sails (love a good mixed metaphor). Now they are reacting to liberals instead of the other way around.

    It’s actually a good thing the Prez didn’t come out with this statement before the vote. The vote totals show that his statement of support for SSM wouldn’t have been enough to swing the vote. If he’d come out before the vote and then the amendment had still passed it would have been a setback for the good guys.

    Politically, I think it’s pretty  much a wash. I doubt it will affect vote counts at all. What it will do, and already has to some extent, is help with fundraising. Small donors, like most of us, will be even more committed. Big donors and bundlers, those who are gay, will be more apt to work harder for the campaign.

    Most importantly, though, what does this mean for the cause? My first thoughts on that question were, “Not much.” Now that I’ve thought about it a bit more, I think that’s wrong. I think having POTUS make this statement adds some additional legitimacy to the cause. I think there are people out there who have come around to the idea that this is a civil rights issue and that it needs to happen, but who are still reluctant to voice their support in public. I think they will now be move willing to state their support. There may even be an upswing in the next few months in poll numbers for those in support of SSM.

    I’d really like to hear from those who are actually working for the cause. I support SSM as part of a broader civil rights issue for the LGBT community in this country. But, I’m not really involved in the fight. My involvement is pretty much limited to vocal support and occasional written pieces. What does this mean to those in the trenches? What does this mean to a gay teenager in Bozeman, MT? Does it give them hope for a better future? Or is it no more than a minor news story that will be forgotten in a few days?

  13. HappyinVT

    RT @peeweeherman: Thank you, Mr. President, for standing up for equality. Yours Truly, Pee-wee Herman-Clooney.

  14. DTOzone

    “that’s great, but if Obama was serious, why isn’t he repealing DOMA?”

    yeah, so, whatever.  

  15. Strummerson

    Biden apologized to the President.  Seems like it really may have been a mistake.  And given the President’s subsequent moves and the attendant responses, Happy’s perspective seems pretty vindicated.  Hat tip.  Forward to the next hurdle.

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