Is Obama Just Stringing Gay-Rights Activists Along?

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Many liberals were heartened when President Obama said his views on gay marriage were "evolving" during a roundtable meeting with five progressive bloggers in the White House yesterday. Still, Obama cautioned that he wasn't prepared to offer a reversal at that moment, right there in the Roosevelt Room. Some have speculated that Obama might change his position to full support of same-sex marriage--instead of just civil unions--before the 2012 election. But given disappointment that Obama hasn't pushed harder for gay rights in his first two years in office, is Obama just stringing activists along?

"You’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine," Obama explained. "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." Richard Socarides, who advised Bill Clinton on gay issues, told Politico's Josh Gerstein that "presidents don't usually think out loud unless they intend to send a signal that they are shifting a position," and the president "realizes he can't run as a gay rights advocate in 2012 and be against marriage equality." Others are less hopeful.

  • Obama's Got His Finger in the Wind, Dan Amira notes at Daily Intel. "President Obama's support for civil unions but not gay marriage has always been a somewhat odd — and, you get the feeling, perhaps disingenuous — position," Amira says. "It's not all that subtle what Obama is communicating here: He's going to announce his support for gay marriage. ... There's nothing praiseworthy about holding your finger to the wind on basic issues of human equality, if that's indeed what he's done. But the fact that the winds have shifted enough for a cautious, politically sensitive person like Obama to shift with them? That says a lot."
  • We've Been Down This Road Before, B. Daniel Blatt warns at GayPatriot. "The reports we’ve been reading about a dispirited gay base may well be more than just reports. Now comes word that in that interview, he said his views on gay marriage were 'evolving.'  And the cynic in me wondered if it was that he was evolving on gay marriage, but that he was pandering to the gay community, recalling how so many rushed back to Bill Clinton even after he broke his promise on repealing the ban on gays serving in the military and, in the dead of the night, signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). ... I don’t think as many gays are eager to return to the Democrats’ embrace as they were in the 1990s.  Chalk it up to experience.  And new media."
  • Pure Pandering, Power Line's Paul Mirengoff says. "I wonder how many people believe Obama's claim that his 'understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage' (the inapt use of the plural here suggests he is blowing smoke) are what have kept him from 'signing on to same-sex marriage.' I don't believe it. I think he hasn't publicly signed on for purely political reasons. ... If Obama's 'understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage' are this ephemeral, they should not cause him to oppose the creation of an important new right for his 'host of friends who are in gay partnerships' or for anyone else. But, again, I do not believe that this is or ever has been the basis for Obama's opposition. I believe the basis is crass political calculation, an even weaker justification."
  • We're Waiting for Results Pam Spaulding says at Pam's House Blend. "In terms of marriage equality, all he had to say was a reiteration of his support for civil unions but traditional marriage. After all, did anyone expect him to reverse his opinion at 3:30 in the afternoon in the Roosevelt Room? We wouldn't want him to suddenly switch back to the support of full marriage equality he had in 1996, would we? I'm being snide, I admit, but it's only because the President's responses are so condescending. ... Obama was reluctant to 'tip his hand,' but I surely hope there is more to this strategy than just actually trying to get the votes this time around. We don't have much choice but to wait and find out. Come on, then, stalwart ally, show us what you got."

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