White House Struggles to Explain Obama’s Evolving Position on Same-Sex Marriage

May 7, 2012 - 4:29 PM

Obama

President Barack Obama holds a Buckeye, a chestnut, presented to him before a campaign rally at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio Saturday, May 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

(CNSNews.com) – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney struggled to explain how President Barack Obama’s evolving position on same-sex marriage was consistent with Vice President Joe Biden’s pronouncement this weekend that he was comfortable with “men marrying men, women marrying women.”

At one point during the Monday press briefing, Carney seemed to refer to marriage as a right, but would not say if Obama supports gay marriage, even while the president opposes a proposed state constitutional amendment in North Carolina.

“States have taken action on this issue. The president believes when the process works that’s a positive thing,” Carney said. “He also opposes efforts by the states to repeal rights or deny rights to LGBT citizens that have already been established.”

Six states have approved gay marriage either through an act of the legislature or forced to do so by courts. On the other hand, 30 states have approved constitutional amendments to recognize only traditional marriage. 

NBC News reporter Chuck Todd asked, “So he opposes bans on gay marriage, but he doesn’t yet support gay marriage?”

Carney said, “The record is clear that the president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples. That is a position he has taken that precedes his taken a position in North Carolina. It’s a position he has taken in other states where this has been an issue.”

During an interview Sunday on Meet the Press, Biden went beyond anything Obama has said about gay marriage.

“Look, I am vice president of the United States of America. The president sets the policy,” Biden told NBC’s David Gregory. “I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don't see much of a distinction beyond that.”

Obama has said he opposes same-sex marriage, but he also says his view on the matter is evolving. Further, the president wants to repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act. If that happens, states that do not allow homosexual marriage would be forced to recognize such marriages performed in another state. Repeal would effectively nationalize same-sex marriage.

Carney fielded numerous questions on the definition of evolving, if the president has evolved yet, and what he is evolving from. Carney answered, “He has spoken to this. I don’t have an update to provide you on the president’s position. It is what it was.”

But, Carney said, “This president has been extremely aggressive in supporting LGBT rights.”

In lieu of vocally supporting homosexual marriage, Carney said that Obama has had a strong record on issues advocated by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lobby, such as repealing the ban on military service, hate crimes legislation, and an executive order pushing visitation rights for same-sex couples.

“The president was asked this and said his personal views on this were evolving,” Carney said. “The president does have, as you noted, significant support from the LGBT community. That’s because of his unparalleled record of support of LGBT rights. It includes the fight to repeal successfully don’t-ask-don’t-tell.

“It includes signing hate crimes legislation that includes LGBT persons. It includes ending the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act. It includes deferring hospital visitation rights to LGBT couples. I could go on. His record on LGBT rights is simply unparalleled. He will continue to fight for those rights,” he added.

Among the 30 states that banned gay marriage are liberal states such as California, Michigan and Maine. Same-sex marriage is now legal in six states – Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, and Iowa – plus the District of Columbia.