On Gay Marriage, President Obama Admits Some Evolution

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Adam noted this below, but I think it’s worth reproducing in full the exchange President Obama had Wednesday with a liberal blogger over gay marriage. It reads as if the president is dying to say something, but he knows he cannot for political reasons, which is striking because the White House message on most other things is that they are willing to take political slings and arrows as long as the policy is correct. So, to the tape:

Q And this one is on the issue of marriage. Since you’ve become President, a lot has changed. More states have passed marriage equality laws. This summer a federal judge declared DOMA unconstitutional in two different cases. A judge in San Francisco declared Prop 8 was unconstitutional. And I know during the campaign you often said you thought marriage was the union between a man and a woman, and there — like I said, when you look at public opinion polling, it’s heading in the right direction. We’ve actually got Republicans like Ted Olson and even Ken Mehlman on our side now. So I just really want to know what is your position on same-sex marriage?

THE PRESIDENT: Joe, I do not intend to make big news sitting here with the five of you, as wonderful as you guys are. (Laughter.) But I’ll say this —

Q I just want to say, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you this question.


Q People in our community are really desperate to know.

THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s a fair question to ask. I think that — I am a strong supporter of civil unions. As you say, I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage.

But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine. And I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships. I have staff members who are in committed, monogamous relationships, who are raising children, who are wonderful parents.

And I care about them deeply. And so while I’m not prepared to reverse myself here, sitting in the Roosevelt Room at 3:30 in the afternoon, I think it’s fair to say that it’s something that I think a lot about. That’s probably the best you’ll do out of me today. (Laughter.)
Q It is an important issue, and I think that —

THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s an entirely fair question to ask.

During the campaign, Obama said he wanted to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage in federal law as between a man and a woman, and he said he supports civil unions. To read more on this exchange, see Joe Sudbay’s post over at AmericaBlog.

In the press briefing today, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs declined to elaborate on what Obama had meant by the word “evolve.”

QUESTION: Yesterday in a session with bloggers the president said that his attitude was evolving with regard to same-sex marriage. I’m wondering if you can elaborate on that; and when the president might finish his evolution of his thinking and come to a decision.


GIBBS: Well, I’d — I’d — look, I would — I’d point you to the blogger, I think, posted a — the fairly — the full text of what the president said. I think he went through what his position is. He went through why his position was that.

But, you know, like as the same time he talks to colleagues and co-workers and — and hears — hears them talking about being treated differently, and the president internalizes that.

So I don’t have a lot to add to the answer because I think he went through where he is and what he thinks about it.