Barack Obama on Gay Marriage

Last Updated : Jul 24, 2012

Summary

President Obama's view on marriage has changed throughout his political career. It seems that in 1996, he supported same-sex marriage, but then changed that view when he ran for national office in 2006. He has always supported civil unions and opposed section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that prevents the recognition of some same-sex couple benefits, such as sponsorship of foreign born partners for citizenship. His view on the idea of marriage has evolved since taking office and President Obama has now confirmed that he supports gay marriage.

Record Prior to Assuming the Senate

In 1996, the campaign of Barack Obama for State Senate filled out a questionnaire for the Windy City Media group indicating that he wouls support a state resolution in support of gay marriage. That same year, he responded to an outline questionnaire by stating that he supported gay marriage and would fight efforts to prohibit it. In June of 2011, a member of the Obama administration claimed that these surveys were filled out by a staff member and were not the views of Barack Obama. The owner of the magazine that published the questionnaire quickly rebutted that assertion and the press secretary did eventually confirm that Barack Obama did fill out the questionnaire supporting gay marriage, but that he did now support the traditional definition of marriage.

In 2004, Barack Obama stated in a US Senate campaign debate with Alan Keyes that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that he supports civil unions but not gay marriage. He stated that his religion dictated that marriage was defined this way and that when a man and a woman are married, they are performing something before God. He also stated that this position does not translate into public policy. He continued by asserting that homosexuality is innate and is not a choice, and that marriage is not a civil right but a tradition that needed to be preserved.

Record as Senator

In June of 2006, Senator Obama stated on the Senate floor that marriage was between one man and one woman. He spoke during the debate over a constitutional amendment on marriage and asserted his support for marriage as one man and one woman and his view that debating the issue was merely a distraction from the real issues.

While in office, he voted against an amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman. He also co-sponsored the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2007.

2008 Presidential Campaign

These views on marriage, civil unions, and religion were continually reaffirmed throughout the 2008 campaign. In an interview with Pastor Rick Warren, Senator Obama defined marriage as between one man and one woman and noted that it was also a sacred union in which God was a factor. He then stated that he would not support an amendment to the constitution to define marriage as this is not something left to the constitution to define. He states that the matter of marriage is left to the States.

In additional interviews with the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) and Logo TV, Senator Obama stated that he supported traditional marriage, that he supported civil unions, and that he supported equal rights in terms of hospital visitation, property rights, and other areas for gay and lesbian couples. Senator Obama's official 2008 website statements echoed the statements endorsing equal rights in those areas for LGBT couples. Those statements also asserted Senator Obama's position that the Defense of Marriage Act should be repealed and that he opposed a constitutional amendment to define marriage. While a Senator, Barack Obama voted against a measure to amend the constitution to define marriage.

Record as President

In June of 2009, President Obama issued an Presidential Memorandu, declaring that where legal, the same rights given to federal workers with respect to married couples will be extended to same sex couples.

In October of 2009, President Obama spoke at a Human Rights Campaign national dinner. In that speech, he compares the issues of gay marriage and rights to those faced by African Americans during the civil rights struggles. He makes the assertion that though progress has been slow, the LGBT community should be assured of the destination. He then begins to discuss the need to repeal don't ask, don't tell. This was the first instance in which the President retreated from previous statements and classified marriage with civil rights. It was also ambiguous in terms of defining that goal as either the repeal of DADT or something more.

Later that year, President Obama was interviewed by Anderson Cooper and asked about the possible repeal of DADT. When pressed on the issue, President Obama noted that he simply could not make law, and that this was a rule that Congress established and Congress must repeal. It was not an option of the President to simply ignore the law.

In April of 2010, President Obama issued a second Presidentila Memorandum declaring that any hospital that received federal funds through Medicare or Medicaid must allow visitation rights for same-sex couples.

In October of 2010, the President was speaking to a group of bloggers and stated that his views on the issue of marriage was evolving. He stated that his children had friends who had same-sex parents and that there were workers on his staff that were in committed same-sex relationships.

On February 23 of the 2011 the White House and the Justice Department announced that they would not be defending the DOMA in new cases. The rationality was that previous cases were addressed in courts with established precedents in which the ability to exclude or establish marriage based on sexual preference was settled. The new cases were brought in district courts which had no precedent and the Justice Department could not defend that law without those precedents. AG Eric Holder asserted that he agreed with the stated position of President Obama that the DOMA was unconstitutional. In a subsequent interview with bloggers, President Obama asserted that the decision on DOMA would not take years to address as the court cases were already in progress.

Some time prior to July of 2011, the White House web site was updated to state that President Obama supported the Respect for Marriage Act. Those statements assert that the act would ensure that the federal government could not deny rights to same-sex couples. However, the text of the legislation indicates that it would force a marriage recognized in one state to be recognized in all states, essentially making gay marriage legal in all states and a federal issue.

In early 2012, there was a growing number of high ranking Obama administration officials that came out in support of gay marriage. This included the Secretary of Education and the Vice President. Within days of Vice-President Biden's statements in support of gay marriage, President Obama granted an interview and came out in support of gay marriage.

In doing this, President Obama invoked the "golden rule" in christianity and asserted that he was seeking to treat all Americans as he would like to be treated. The following day, the issue of marriage was addressed on the "civil rights" page of the White House, meaning that the President now viewed the issue as a civil right.

 

Windy City Media Group Questionnaire

In January of 1996, Barack Obama responded to a questionnaire by the Windy City Media group regarding rights for the LGBT community and marriage. In that questionnaire, Barack Obama is asked whether he would support a state resolution supporting marriage and whether because marriage is a fundamental human right.

 

Outlines Magazine

In 1996, Barack Obama responded to the LGBT magazine Outlines and asserts his support for same sex marriage and states that he would fight efforts to prohibit it.

 

US Senate Debate 

In 2004, Barack Obama participated in a debate with Alan Keyes and was asked about his positions on gay marriage and homosexuality. He states that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that he supports civil unions but not gay marriage. He states that when a man and a woman are married, they are performing something before God, but that this does not translate into a position on public policy. He stated that marriage was a position that needed to be preserved, but that gays and lesbians had the same rights. He states that homosexuality is innate and is not a choice, but that marriage is not a civil right.

 

Marriage Amendment Floor Statements

While debating an amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman, Senator Obama spoke on the Senate floor and stated his views that marriage was indeed one man and one woman, but that the debate over the amendment was pointless as it had no chance of passing. He also asserted that the effort was nothing more than a diversion from real issues of the day.

 

CBN Interview

As part of the 2008 election cycle, Senator Obama was asked about his views on gay marriage. He stated that he had no intention of granting them special rights, but only the same rights as married couples, such as hospital visitation and hereditary property rights.

 

Saddleback Church Interview

In an interview at the Sattleback Church with Pastor Rick Warren in 2008, Senator Obama was asked to define marriage and defined it as between one man and one woman. However, he stated that he would not support an amendment to define it as such.

 

Logo TV - Human Rights Campaign

In an interview on Logo TV for the Human Rights Campaign in February of 2008, Senator Obama stated that he supported civil unions, but that marriage was something that shoul dbe decided by religious institutions.

 

2008 Campaign Website Statements 

 

Executive Order - Government Workers

On June 17, 2009 President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum ordering a review on government worker benefits and stating the policy that government benefits would be extended to same-sex couples.

 

Human Rights Campaign National Dinner

At a speech to the Human Rights campaign in October of 2009, President Obama compared the movement to define marriage to include two people of the same sex to the civil rights struggles of African Americans. He stated that the US was moving forward on ending don't ask, don't tell and made the commitment to do so. This was the first time that President Obama made statements on the issue of marriage that called his position on the matter into question. He stated that although progress was slow, the LGBT community should not doubt where the administration was going and that the administration was moving forward on ending don't ask, don't tell.

 

CNN Interview with Anderson Cooper

In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, President Obama again spoke about ending the policy of don't ask, don't tell and about possible non-enforcement of the policy. He notes that as President, he simply cannot make policy, but that he must wait for Congress to end the policy.

 

Presidential Memorandum - Hospital Visitation

On April 15, 2010 President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum declaring that any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding must allow access to same-sex partners.

 

Blogger Interview - Evolving Positions

In October of 2010, President Obama was speaking to a group of bloggers and was asked about his position and possible actions on hte subject of marriage. He states here for the first time that his views on the matter were "evolving" and seemed to indicate that gay marriage was inevitable.

 

Legal Defense of DOMA

On February 23, 2011 President Obama and the Justice Department announced that it would no longer be defending the Defense of Marriage Act in ongoing cases in which section three of DOMA was challenged. In a press release from the Justice Department announcing the decision, AG Holder states that up until this point the court cases involving DOMA were held in courts with established precedence in which it was reasonable for laws to exist that singled out people based on sexual orientation. In the cases in question, no such precedent exists in those courts and the Obama administration beliefs that without the established rulings, the law cannot be defended.

That same day, AG Holder sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner making him aware of the decision and going into more detail about the case, the Justice Department's previous actions, and their actions in this case.

 

 

Questions about 1996 Survey

On June 17, 2011 White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer was interviewed at the Netroots Nation blogger conference and was asked about the 1996 surveys that Barack Obama responded to when running for the State Senate. Mr Pfeiffer states that the surveys were actually filled out by a staff member and not Barack Obama.

The founder of Outlines Magazine and publisher of the Windy City Times, was asked about this possibility and stood by then-state senate candidate Obama's response. He also noted that this is the first time in the 15 years since its publication that the questionnaire's authenticity has been doubted:

Days later, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about the questionnaire by the press corps. His response is that Mr Pfeiffer was referring to another questionnaire. He does not comment on which questionnaires were and were not filled out by Mr Obama.

 

Repeal of DADT

On September 20, 2011 the White House issued a statement noting the repeal of DADT was now formally in place. The President signed the legislation at the end of the previous year.

 

DOMA will not take years

In September of 2011, President Obama was interviewed by bloggers and press personel regarding a number of issues. He was asked about DOMA and the ability of gay and lesbian couples to sponsor foreign born partners for citizenship. The President reiterates that he does not suppport DOMA and that he wants to see it repealed. The President then stated that given that there are already cases in court to address section three of DOMA, the decision on it's legality would not take long to decide.

 

Respect for Marriage Act

In July of 2011, a page of WhiteHouse.gov stated that President Obama supported the Respect for Marriage Act. This legislation would remove the Defense of Marriage Act and force one state to recognize a legal marriage in another state.

 

Vice President Biden's Support

On May 6, 2012 Vice-President Obama appeared on Meet the Press and discussed the issue of marriage, along with a number of other issues. The Vice-President asserted that he is comfortable with the idea of gay marriage and that the issue was evolving. He noted that the law follows culture and that people's opinion on the issue was changing.

 

Support for Gay Marriage

On May 9, 2012 President Obama granted an interview to ABC News and discussed the issue of marriage. In that interview, he confirmed that his view had evolved and that he now supported gay marriage. He also discussed the religious implications of marriage and stated that in his view, Jesus taught to treat others as we would like to be treated and that this tenet of christianity was one of the foundations of this position.

Voting Record

2006 Constitutional Amendment

In 2006 the Senate voted on adding a constitutional amendment which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and ensured to no state would be capable of conferring marital status on a union other than a man or a woman. Barack Obama voted against the 2006 amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Barack Obama voted against the 2006 amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

 

Sponsored and Cosponsored Legislation

Session-110; Bill Number-S 2521; Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2007 - Cosponsor

Provides that a federal employee and his or her domestic partner shall be entitled to benefits available to, and shall be subject to obligations imposed upon, a married federal employee and his or her spouse.Defines "domestic partner" to mean an adult unmarried person living with another adult unmarried person of the same sex in a committed, intimate relationship. Defines "benefits" to include federal health insurance and enhanced dental and vision benefits, retirement and disability benefits, family, medical, and emergency leave, group life insurance, long-term care insurance, compensation for work injuries, and benefits for disability, death, or captivity. Excludes members of the uniformed services from the definition of "employee."Sets forth requirements for filing: (1) an affidavit of eligibility as such a domestic partner, which shall include a certification that the employee and the domestic partner are each other's sole domestic partners and intend to remain so indefinitely; and (2) a statement upon dissolution of such a domestic partnership.

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