The New York City fundraiser sponsored by the Democratic National Committee was geared toward the homosexuality community and came at a $1,250-a-plate price, according to reports. Support from homosexuals is seen as critical to his re-election, especially in a close race. He won 70 percent of the homosexual vote in 2008, according to CNN exit polls.
" I believed that discrimination because of somebody's sexual orientation or gender identity ran counter to who we are as a people, and it's a violation of the basic tenets on which this nation was founded," Obama said. Gender identity is a term that refers to men and women who, in essence, believe they were born the wrong sex. "I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country."
Several times during the speech Obama was heckled by those who urged him to back "gay marriage."
"Marriage!" one lady shouted.
Obama, though, just smiled. He has walked a tightrope on the issue with the homosexuality community, publicly opposing "gay marriage" while also opposing every law that would prevent its legalization. He has also said he is "evolving" on the issue. He didn't use that language during the June 23 speech but did re-state his opposition to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
"I have long believed that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act ought to be repealed," Obama said. "It was wrong. It was unfair. And since I taught constitutional law for a while, I felt like I was in a pretty good position to agree with courts that have ruled that Section 3 of DOMA violates the Constitution. And that's why we decided, with my attorney general, that we could no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in the courts. Now, part of the reason that DOMA doesn't make sense is that traditionally marriage has been decided by the states."
Obama's rhetoric on the Defense of Marriage Act has long frustrated conservatives, partially because DOMA has long been seen as a law protecting states' rights. Although section 3 of DOMA does mostly deal with the federal government -- it defines marriage in federal law as between a man and a woman -- the other major section of the law is aimed at the states by giving them the option of not recognizing another state's "gay marriages." The Defense of Marriage Act is what led dozens of states to pass laws and constitutional amendments defining marriage in the traditional sense. Obama opposes the entire law, and not just Section 3.
Byron Babione, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, has called Obama's position on DOMA "nonsense."
"DOMA actually protects the right of states to determine social policy with respect to marriage," Babione told Baptist Press. "It allows states the freedom to protect marriage between a man and a woman and not to have the same-sex marriages of other states imposed upon them.... Repealing DOMA actually does the opposite of protecting states' rights.... Repealing of DOMA also would do untold damage to the benefits that marriage brings to society. It would open the way to defining marriage and its value out of existence."
Many commentators on both sides of the issue believe Obama eventually will become the first sitting president to endorse "gay marriage." Among them is Jonathan Capehart, an openly homosexual writer for The Washington Post, who wrote June 23, "Obama will come out in favor of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. It's just a matter of when."
Obama closed his speech by urging the homosexual community to help his re-election campaign.
"We can look at the progress we've made in the last two years, to the changes that were led not by Washington, but by folks standing up for themselves, or for their sons or for their daughters, fighting for what's right," he said. "Not just change on behalf of gay Americans, but for everybody looking to fulfill their version of the American Dream.... And with your help, if you keep up the fight, and if you will devote your time and your energies to this campaign one more time, I promise you we will write another chapter in that story."
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.
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