Now that federal district Judge Vaughn Walker has ruled dramatically against California's gay-marriage ban, it's worth remembering that President Obama, officially, is personally opposed to gay marriage. That was his stance throughout the presidential campaign, and it remains his stance today, as David Axelrod confirmed in an interview with MSNBC.
"The president does oppose same-sex marriage, but he supports equality for gay and lesbian couples," Axelrod said. (Video here; remarks at 1:25.)
Obama has consistently backed civil unions that afford the same rights and benefits as straight marriages. The only difference, it seems, is the word "marriage." Here's Obama explaining his views on stage at an event hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest and traditionally most powerful gay-rights political group in America. And here's Obama answering a question about marriage from Rev. Rick Warren, in which he says marriage has traditionally been a matter of state law:
Obama has also opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Obama has presented himself as a pro-gay-rights president, welcoming LGBT activists to the White House last year and telling them, "Welcome to your White House."
(On the issues, Obama hasn't yet delivered. The Defense of Marriage Act has yet to be repealed, and in fact the Justice Department has defended it; the Pentagon has taken steps toward the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and while repeal now seems like it will happen at some point, it hasn't happened yet.)
Walker's findings, however, directly contradict Obama's stance on gay marriage. As Marc noted yesterday, Walker found that marriage is a civil institution, subject to religious intervention only when needed. And civil unions aren't the same, Walker finds: "Domestic partnerships lack the social meaning associated with marriage...The availability of domestic partnership does not provide gays and lesbians with a status equivalent to marriage because the cultural meaning of marriage and its associated benefits are intentionally withheld from same-sex couples in domestic partnerships."
Consensus has been building around gay marriage, and Obama's opinion is more restrictive than that held by a broad swath of the country. According to an April poll by CBS, 42% support marriage rights for gays and lesbians, 28% say no legal recognition should be given, and 25% support civil unions.
And after yesterday's ruling, it appears that federal court, for now at least--Prop. 8 opponents have pledged to fight through the appeals process--has leapfrogged the president in the gay-rights department.