Obama Says Gay Couples Deserve Equal Rights But Insists It’s Not a Federal Fight

It’s a big day to be gay in New York! Pride is underway, Obama’s visiting, and something may or may not happen with gay marriage in the State Senate tonight/tomorrow.

President Barack Obama hosted a $1,250-a-plate fundraising gala at the Sheraton earlier tonight, apparently part of a larger Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender leadership gala in the city. From NY1:

… Obama said “that gay couples “deserve the same legal rights” as all couples, and that New York State is having a proper, democratic “debate” on the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Obama told a very receptive crowd of about 600 at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender leadership gala at the Sheraton that while he is personally against discrimination based on sexual orientation, the final battle for marriage equality should take place in the state Legislature.

The president noted how much lawmakers accomplished during his term, including the passing of a hate crimes law and the repeal of the military’s former “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned openly gay service members.

Americablog has a full transcript of the president’s remarks, upon which they commented:

The President just concluded his remarks at the big LGBT fundraiser in NYC. And, it’s confirmed, he didn’t evolve on marriage.

Here’s two videos from Think Progress. In the first, Obama discusses his opposition to DOMA:

In the second video he gets interrupted:

Outside “dozens of LGBT community supporters” gathered to encourage Obama to take a prominent stand in favor of same-sex marriage. After his gig at the Sheraton, Obama moved on to a private fundraiser at Daniel Restaurant, “where participants have paid $35,800 for a seat.” They will enjoy a special fundraising performance of the Broadway musical Sister Act and then Obama will address the audience. Seriously.

So what do you think? Is this — and all the progress the Obama administration has made in the are of gay rights — enough? Personally I’ve been unable to think negatively about President Obama since the Correspondent’s Dinner when he played The Lion King video, which was hands-down the best joke of 2011, but we could really use his full explicit support right now — and Christ, he could certainly use ours!

As AmericaBlog says:

…looks like we’ll need to keep up the pressure. Remember, we’re doing this for his own political good. The President is already behind the curve of public opinion on marriage, particularly with young voters. He looks out of touch. It’s still early. There’s still time for Obama to evolve. It will be another political calculation on his part. Hopefully, he’s beginning to understand that it’s good politics to be on fully on our side.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. Okay, I don’t know. There are murmurings that he’s saving a marriage endorsement/even legislation for his second term and that this campaigning is a kind of wink to the lgbt community like, “Get me in again, guys, and I’ll help you out”. But otherwise, he can’t fully endorse gay marriage and then run a campaign in the States. (Not saying he shouldn’t, just what his team would be thinking). So it’s like, do people hope blindly and vote for him, on the chance that they’ll be let down? If he gets a second term and continues with this approach, though, my opinion of Obama will never recover.

    • What would it matter if your opinion of him won’t recover when(/if) he’s already in office for his second (and final) term?

      Obama’s problem is 1) he’s not as liberal as we want him to be and 2) he’s bending over backwards in the pursuit of bipartisanship, trying to meet people half way who take the inch he’s given and run about 600 miles to the right with it.

      • oh, I know it won’t “matter” politically or anything, just my own personal opinion of the man. I do have affection for Obama and I just want him to really go for it here.

        • I know, which is why it’s so frustrating. There’s huge affection for this extraordinary man and at the same time bloody annoyance at the fact that he’s not coming out for what’s right, for what he clearly knows is right. Evolve already, as the slogan goes.

      • Exactly. If we elect a Republican we know what we’ll get and it WON’T be equality.

      • This. Especially when every GOP candidate’s already pledged to reinstate DADT. I’d rather be frustrated with the slow rate of progress than see it stripped away.

    • Here’s the thing. At this point, I wouldn’t push him any farther. Because I believe you’re right, if he goes any farther on this, he’s (unfortunately, yet probably) going to lose too many votes. And let’s face it. Even his wishy-washy “yeah I support you but won’t reaaalllyyy do anything about it” is pretty much more liberal than any of our other options for the upcoming election. Unfortunately, it’s not enough. But I think we’ll have to say that it will do for now until he’s in office again. (fingers crossed)

    • i agree with this and it’s my hope too — that he’s trying to keep a bipartisan stance for the election, and that if and once he’s back in office for a second term he can really crack down on these issues when there’s nothing left to lose anymore. but that’s me being optimistic. he’s made more progress this past term than others would have — i know it’s not as far as we all want — but my hope would be that the moderation is for the election and that once he’s back in office he can be much more aggressive than he has been this term.

  2. I think it’s good that he’s making himself so visibly involved with LGBTQ events. THOUGH THAT EXIT SONG WHEN HE FINISHED HIS SPEECH WTF! UGH.


    So, aside from re-election stuff—I think he *might* spook the conservative folks off a bit if he was straight up “I support gay marriage, lets do it, everywhere, now”. And I kinda agree with that, like, if these senators are on the fence, something like that (at this crucial moment) from Obama could maybe make them be like “Oh he wants this, so no.” (as sad as that is)

    Though I was watching and really wishing he’d be like “GAYS GET MARRIED IT’S LEGAL NOW – GLITTER AND SEX TOYS IN LIEU OF STIMULUS.”

    Even though I myself dunno if I ever actually DO want to be married (if so, not for a loooong time), it’s certainly all about equal rights and we should be able to.

  3. He’s gotten us this far, so maybe he can keep going? It’s frustrating, because I want things taken care of now. However, I totally see how coming out in full support of gay marriage would kill his campaign. This is why I hate politics. I want to say he should “do the right thing” and ignore the game, but that’s entirely impossible in the world we live in. Hearing him say that the states should handle it is maddening, because that will never fucking happen. I guess he has to say something though and this is that something. At this point, I still feel like he’s the best option, and that he’s trying. We’ll see how that goes.

  4. I think I’m ok with his stance. Like he said already, he’s done a hell lot more for LGBT issues than any other president has. What’s really pissing me off is the republicans trying to postpone voting on the the NY marriage bill… JUST VOTE ALREADY AND GET IT OVER WITH!!!
    As for the president… a few things I see: 1. Obama is Christian, so obviously he struggles with the issue. To be honest, he’s already as progressive as can be. 2. Then there’s the fact that if he comes out to support gay marriage, he might lose a lot of swing votes in the next election. He knows that none of his gay supporters are going to vote for a republican candidate anyway, so why bother. 3. Perhaps he is aware that marriage is an institution that allows consistent discrimination against not just gay people, single people, widowed/unmarried people, alternative families, polyamorous people, etc. Perhaps he feels, like many do, that marriage should not be a “special privilege” for some… Idk.

    • To clarify, Obama is Christian, but he belongs to the United Church of Christ, which is considered my many to be the most progressive branch of American Protestants and does NOT struggle with the issue of gay marriage, but rather fully supports all of our rights. His Christianity requires all of its churches to be “open and affirming.” So I do not believe he personally struggles with the issue at all, but rather makes these calculations on purely political grounds. Which is sad, but realistic.

    • “he’s already as progressive as can be”

      He’s actually not progressive at all. On many issues, he’s to the right of Reagan. He just seems progressive because the right has gone so far overboard. A truly progressive candidate/president would not be a moderate or walk any kind of middle ground in the name of hopeless “bipartisanship.” And bipartisanship with this president & this congress is futile. We’ve seen that. They want him to fail at all costs no matter what it does to our country and will not work with him under ANY circumstances. He makes concessions before the fight even begins. That’s not how you deal with terrorists and that’s what the Republicans are – domestic terrorists.

      In actual practical fact, he hasn’t done much for us. He could have repealed DADT with an executive order but instead waited for Congress to do it. Even though it is repealed, the military have an unlimited timeline in which to enact the new policy. Net result = no change. I’m sure it will be in place at some point, but when?

      Same with DOMA. Executive order could take care of it. The official White House opinion is that it’s unconstitutional and he has ordered the DOJ to stop defending it. But then he goes and says this shit? How can something he says is unconstitutional also be left up to the states? If everyone “deserve(s) the same legal rights” then there should be no need for “debate.”

      So which is it? He’s a pandering politician. He talks a good game but that’s about it. He wants to get reelected. He doesn’t actually give a crap about us. And he knows we’re trapped by the fact that there is no viable alternative.

      • “He doesn’t actually give a crap about us. And he knows we’re trapped by the fact that there is no viable alternative.”
        this x 2012

      • “How can something he says is unconstitutional also be left up to the states? If everyone “deserve(s) the same legal rights” then there should be no need for “debate.””

        This. Only politicians could say something so impossibly idiotic.

        There’s really no other explanation for his stance except that he feels it will a. lose him a lot of votes and b. isn’t important enough to lose a lot of votes on.

        I’m hoping that if elected to a second term, though, the fear of reelection won’t be in his soul and it’ll allow him to act more freely on a number of issues…

      • I understand your frustration and agree with much of what you said. But the fact is that for him to actively endorse gay marriage would be political suicide (with the moderates whom he counted on winning the last election) especially right before election year. Given the circumstances and incredible hostility he faces in opposition, he has done as much as he can in terms of LGBT rights. He still afterall is backed by a political party, he doesn’t and probably can’t make these decisions on his own. It’s been a slow 4 years; there are so many other issues that have yet to be properly dealt with – ending foreign wars, healthcare and financial reform, etc… It’s sad but what I do know is I would be horrified if Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich, or Mitt Romney were elected instead that’s for sure.

        • The majority of the public now supports same-sex marriage and it just passed in a state with a Republican-controlled legislature (New York). I really think this belief that supporting same-sex marriage is political suicide is an outdated one that was true in 2008, but not now. I think it would actually be beneficial for him to be honest about how he feels about this (as I really do believe he’s for same-sex marriage but just hedging his bets), as it would rally the base – the Democratic base is a particularly fickle one – with not a very high cost in terms of swing voters.

          Besides, I don’t think same-sex marriage will be a big issue for swing voters in the 2012 election. I think it will be the economy. I also think that a lot of people who might have voted for Republicans in 2010 are frustrated that they’ve been spending their time in office taking cheap shots at abortion and other pet issues rather than doing anything to actually create jobs. As far as the people who really do vote based on wanting to restrict gay rights – well, the fact that he’s against DOMA and DADT and is fine with the states passing marriage equality means he’s basically dead to them anyway.

          Meanwhile, I think a lot of liberals are mad at the Democrats for being too willing to compromise with Republican bullying, and so I think it would help gain him a lot of voters who would otherwise vote for a third-party candidate or not at all if he took a stronger stance on something like same-sex marriage.

          • THIS. I have always found his post-election, middle-of-the-road, I-want-everyone-to-like-me strategy to be deeply flawed not to mention utterly insulting to his base who got him there in the first place. All he has done is piss us off while gaining no support from the other side whatsoever. I don’t understand why it has taken him so long, if he’s even arrived there, to realize the right is solidified and will NEVER work with him on anything unless he gives away the store first. And even then it’s questionable.

            As far as being in an election cycle, how ’bout the previous 2.5 years? Yes, there were other bigger issues – but none of those could be resolved with the stroke of a pen. DADT & DOMA could have been. And as noted in the AS post from today and as I mentioned previously, the DADT repeal so far doesn’t mean shit.

            As recently as today, he repeated yet again that his position is “still evolving.” I’m not convinced that it’s not an issue for him. The stance he’s taken let’s him play both sides of the fence so there’s no way to know what he really thinks.

            The whole “it’s a states’ issue” thing is utterly disingenuous as he knows damn well, as we will likely see shortly without the repeal of DOMA, that this is going to end up in front of the Supreme Court. And if the current lineup of justices is still in place when that happens, god help us. He knows damn well it’s only a matter of time before it’s Federal. He’s just hoping to pass the buck to the Judicial system, assuming he gets 4 more years.

  5. This still feels like much more than we’ll get from any other viable candidate in 2012. The fact that he is publicly stating his support for gay rights, he does not support DOMA, and he describes his views as the ever-ambiguous “evolving” makes me think that he’s stalling on the marriage issue until his 2nd term, which is shitty but also the nature of the re-election game.

  6. I can’t get past the $35,800 a seat at that dinner, I can’t imagine having so much money that even considering buying a seat at that dinner is a possibility

      • omg i have to sell my xbox and all it’s gear to pay for either books or a new scooter. sadly a part of me knows that it won’t be the sweet 2011 honda ruckus (holds 1.3 gallons and 100-114mpg, it blows my mind)

    • Right?? Like that’s more than twice what I make in a year. (As a college fuckin’ graduate…thanks economy!)

      And Americans piss and moan about taxes…I think if someone’s making enough to throw down $35,800 for a dinner–whether the guest star is the Prez or Lady Gaga or the pope–they can AFFORD to pay more taxes so that maybe the rest of us can, I dunno, have healthcare or decent schools.


  7. i dont understand the coyness. a majority of americans support gay marriage, so wouldnt him saying he approves of it only reinforce what that 54 or so percent already approve of, thus making him more likeable and not come off as wishywashy and a pushover?

    • because the people in politics generally have more extreme views than their constituents. in this case we have more people leaning in the extreme right so not as much of a shot of passing anything now. i think after recalls would be a good time take down doma and put up a bill protecting lgbtq rights.

  8. I do think that leaving this up to the states is bs. it should be an obvious national issue ( should be included in the 1st amendment,imo). But it would be smacked down in the house in no time. I think that is where his point (and very important strategy to get people voting in recalls, as far as it goes he’s got 2012 in the bag) lies, the votes that will pass this bill is going to have to come from elected officials in the house and senate.

    It would never pass in the supreme court because it leans to far right. So this is kind of the only shot right now. Later on I do believe it will become a basic right. I don’t think this is Obama’s personal beliefs in play, pure strategy.

    • How would it be a 1st amendment issue rather than a 14th amendment issue? I mean, I guess you could make a separation of church and state argument that religious beliefs are the reason why most people are against same-sex marriage. But the anti-gay forces are wise to that, if you look at the recent cases such as the Prop 8 case in California. You’d have a much stronger argument if you just focused on the face that this is about equal rights under law.

    • Also, w/r/t the Supreme Court – the Roberts court actually is far-right on just about everything (but primarily economic/labor issues) EXCEPT LGBT rights. Anthony Kennedy, the “swing” justice, tends to side with the liberal bloc on those issues, and he even wrote the majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas (the 2003 case that declared sodomy laws unconstitutional), back when he was still considered one of the true-blue conservatives.

      The other thing is, the anti-gay case is so incredibly flimsy that it’s kind of hard to rule in their case if you didn’t come in with the intention of doing so.

  9. Well, I don’t like Obama tiptoeing around equality, but I’ll still vote for him because the option (excluding independent parties b/c they never win) is a whole lot scarier. Sure, Obama doesn’t so as much as we would like him to do, but he doesn’t harm us. The republicans who are running? Some of them would constitutionally ban same-sex marriage. That’s scary enough for me to vote Obama

  10. I’m sorry, anything less then complete equal rights to hetero marriage under federal law is unacceptable. And I really like Obama, but our rights are not a political game and i feel like he is treating it as such. I’m glad for the progress that has been made in the right direction but I don’t like his stance on gay marriage. Saying it’s a states issue implies that it is not a fundamental right. And it is. And I believe federal law should reflect that.

    • he is an elected official. EVERYTHING is a political game. that’s (sadly) the way it works. most elected officials run on stances they think will get them elected and make choices that they think will get them elected. that is what everyone in the business tells them.

      it’s really sad because it’s people’s lives, whether it’s healthcare or marriage or abortion, but it’s always a game.

  11. Obama isn’t going to come out and say that he wants gay marriage even though I really do think he’s not as torn on this issue as he claims. I bet dollars to donuts that if he did say it, the Republicans would run their entire smear campaign for the election on the fact that Obama loves the queers and wants to destroy the sanctity of marriage. I think people who haven’t voted in years would come out of the woodwork just to vote against him. I’d be no different than the smear campaign they ran against the gays during Bush’s re-election. Remember that fun time?

    • The thing is, though, more and more Democrats are coming out in total favor of same-sex marriage. I really think if he “came out” (lol) as completely supportive of it, it would earn him more support from his base than he would lose from undecided voters. I mean, the majority of the country now supports same-sex marriage. I think this concept that he can’t support same-sex marriage and win is outdated.

      I also think Obama likes to frame himself as Mr. Moderate Compromiser Who Reaches Across the Aisle and taking a half-baked position on LGBT rights is part of that. It’s really annoying, though, because Republicans by and large aren’t interested in reaching across the aisle, just in pushing their agenda – I mean, they won the House last election largely based on jobs and they still took it as a mandate to push their other agendas like the anti-abortion stuff. When are Obama and the Democrats going to realize this?

  12. I don’t trust Obama. I don’t even know. I feel like this makes me a bad gay and no one will ever talk to me at recess. Like, I know everyone says it but it’s true, if certain other civil rights issues were left up to the state and voting and all that, would anything have gotten done?
    I also find it sort of disconcerting that he loved the gays when he was campaigning and then largely ignored us and now that he’s campaigning again he loves the gays SO MUCH OMG SO MUCH GAY LOVE.

    I feel like I’m going to be drawn and quartered but I just want to get married you know?

    • Exactly. I don’t want to feel like my rights are just a political strategy. What I’m hoping for is that he is just leaving it for the second term since he has nothing to lose at that point.

  13. The President’s views on gay marriage has stayed the same so why are people still surprised at his views. He’s personally not for it but would not try to stop it from happening. Why not go at the people who have banned gay marriage or gay adoption in their state. Since The President has made his announcement about Afghanistan, i’m happy.

  14. You know what? Of course I want more from him on this. I want more from him on a lot of things. But at least he’s the baby step forward instead of the giant leap back any other candidate would be. If he even does the minimal for us, that’s still something. And we deserve MORE, but we deserve something more than nothing.

  15. did anyone else get those emails from him saying that if you donate five dollars he’ll fly you out to eat dinner with him cuz you’re a homo and all? i didn’t know my homoness was so obvious even obama and biden knew.

    • Its just for liking him, not for teh gay. I get those emails all the time and I don’t think they’re aware of my proclivities.

      • Yeah, I didn’t see anything about it being gay. I would have thought about it if I wasn’t so broke, though, I’m a starving student and I like free dinners. :P

  16. Marriage laws are typically state domain. So as much as it might suck, isn’t President Obama right when he says the final battle for marriage equality should take place in the state legislature?

  17. I really don’t buy this whole, “he can’t come out in full support of gay marriage because that will blow all of his political viability” argument. What’s going to be the number one issue in 2012? The economy.

    I think even Republican’s a more worried about so called “Obama Care”, the national deficit, and unemployment than gay marriage.

    Amazingly, Bachmann, based on her comments at the recent major Rep. debate, is basically as progressive as Obama on gay marriage. She said she thinks marriage is between a man and a woman, BUT that she would defer to state statutes and not support a federal law. Seems like pretty much the same position as Obama.

    • Re: Bachmann – Not really. She has expressed support in the past for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which Obama has explicitly spoken out against. She also supports voter referenda to decide the issue, rather than through the legislature or the courts, which Obama has also spoken out against in the case of Prop 8 (which is consistent with James Madison’s writings in Federalist 10 and 51 re: minority rights and the “tyranny of the majority” which Obama would be familiar with as a Constitutional law scholar). In addition, Bachmann also has stated before that she sees same-sex attraction as a disorder contrary to modern medical knowledge, while Obama has never said anything of the sort, and made other statements that non-heterosexuals are deviants who are going to hell. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelle_bachmann#Social_issues

      I also will believe Republicans truly care about the economy when they a) start trying to cut programs which actually take up a substantial portion of the budget, as opposed to extending those while cutting minuscule ones they just happen to not like, and b) stop using time that could be devoted to job-creation to instead pass socially-conservative laws like the recent abortion ban in Ohio that have nothing to do with creating jobs.

    • To add to what I said – I was pleasantly surprised by what she had to say about New York, too, but I think we have to take into account her entire record on this issue, not just one statement. (And personally I believe civil rights should be protected at the federal level, as I don’t believe it’s fair that the gays of Mississippi or South Dakota should have to wait 15-20 years to get rights that gays in Massachusetts or Connecticut or Vermont have enjoyed for years. There are some things that states should decide – basic civil rights are not among them.)

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