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?