How Obama Got 'Ahead of the Curve' on Same-Sex Marriage

Terry Jeffrey
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Posted: May 29, 2008 12:01 AM
How Obama Got 'Ahead of the Curve' on Same-Sex Marriage

When presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke last month with Advocate.com -- which describes itself as an "LGBT" (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) news site -- he took a different approach to same-sex marriage than he took in 2004, when he was running for the U.S. Senate.

"I'm a Christian," Obama said then, "and so although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

This statement, reported at the time by The Associated Press, came in a Sept. 24, 2004, interview with WBBM-AM, a Chicago radio station.

In his interview with Advocate.com, published on April 10, Obama did not suggest Christian tradition was at the root of his own views on same-sex marriage, but he did suggest it was a root cause of "homophobia" -- as he criticized traditionalist African American Christian clergymen.

"There's plenty of homophobia to go around," the interviewer said to Obama, "but you have a unique perspective into the African-American community. Is there a (ellipses in original)"

"I don't think it's worse than in the white community," Obama responded. "I think that the difference has to do with the fact that the African-American community is more churched, and most African-American churches are still fairly traditional in their interpretations of Scripture. And so from the pulpit or in sermons you still hear homophobic attitudes expressed. And since African-American ministers are often the most prominent figures in the African-American community, those attitudes get magnified or amplified a little bit more than in other communities."

When asked about his favoring "civil unions" but not same-sex "marriages," Obama was quick to point out that he understood why the "LGBT" community wanted not only same-sex unions that were equal in law to marriage, but also the word "marriage," too.

"So, I strongly respect the right of same-sex couples to insist that even if we got complete equality in benefits, it still wouldn't be equal because there's a stigma associated with not having the same word, marriage, assigned to it," he said.

Despite his unwillingness to advocate the use of the word "marriage" to describe the legalized same-sex unions he says favors, Obama boasted that he is in the top 1 percent of American politicians in advancing the "LGBT" cause. "And I think that it is absolutely fair to ask me for leadership," he told Advocate.com, "and my argument would be that I'm ahead of the curve on these issues compared to 99 percent of most elected officials around the country on this issue."

Just how far ahead of the curve is he?

In The Advocate, he noted that "I for a very long time have been interested in repeal of DOMA," the Defense of Marriage Act. In a position paper, "On LGBT Rights," published by his campaign, it says Obama believes "we need to fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act."

The practical effect of fully repealing DOMA would be to force all the other 48 states to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in Massachusetts and California, where the state supreme courts have now said same-sex marriage is a "right." That is because the main purpose of DOMA is to exempt states from having to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states as they would otherwise need to under the "Full Faith and Credit Clause" of the Constitution.

But there is good reason to believe Obama does not want the entire electorate to pay close attention to the predictable consequence of the policy he advocates. When the California Supreme Court issued its same-sex marriage ruling earlier this month, his campaign issued a statement suggesting that he respected the right of states to determine their own marriage laws.

"Barack Obama has always believed that same-sex couples should enjoy equal rights under the law, and he will continue to fight for civil unions as president," the statement said, according to The Associated Press. "He respects the decision of the California Supreme Court and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage."

If this statement is true, Obama needs to reverse his call for repealing DOMA, which he was touting to Advocate.com as recently as last month. If he does not reverse his call for repealing DOMA, his true position is that every state in the union should be forced to recognize same-sex marriages.