This has been a momentous week for the gay rights movement. A federal court ruled that California's ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional, Washington became the seventh state to legalize gay marriage and New Jersey's senate passed a bill that would allow gay marriage despite the looming threat of a veto from governor Chris Christie.
While gay rights advocates were celebrating, President Barack Obama was characteristically reticent. When asked last Tuesday about Obama's reaction to the California case White House Press Secretary Jay Carney repeated the now familiar line that the president's views continue to evolve.
Divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights to same-sex couples is something this president has long opposed, Carney said, adding that the president's position on these issues writ large are well known.
Obama Administration Policy
Carney's statement was accurate in one sense. Obama sent a clear signal when he instructed the U.S. Department of Justice to cease defending the Defense of Marriage Act, a prohibition on same-sex marriage that denies legally married gay couples federal benefits. He has presided over the repeal of the don't ask, don't tell policy banning homosexuals from openly serving in the military and has made defending gay rights abroad part of his foreign policy.
But the president has been much more vague when it comes to states legalizing same-sex marriage. After New York did so in June, Obama called the successful push a good thing because it reflected the will of the people. But when asked whether his personal view of gay marriage would lead him to act more forcefully on the issue, Obama demurred.
I'm not going to make news on that today, the president said. Good try though.
Obama has consistently refused to wade into the debate, saying it is up to states to decide (or in the case of the Defense of Marriage Act, Congress). That has earned him rebukes from critics who say he should be leading on the issue. A New York Times editorial lamented his keeping his own views in the shadows as the New York State legislature debated same sex marriage during a marathon legislative session, and a post in New York Magazine recently admonished him for the same.
Does Obama support gay marriage? the post read. Still no. Obama's contradictory, utterly unconvincing 'evolution' continues.