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Obama Flip-Flops on Gay Marriage in U.S.

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From this week's Time (8/19/2009):

Obama, the Gay-Marriage Flip-Flopper

By JOHN CLOUD Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009

On a sunny Saturday last month, I crashed a fancy brunch on New York's Fire Island at the swank beachside home of Daniel Cochran and Greg Sutphin, a wealthy gay couple. They served lovely Bloody Marys and a giant spread of eggs and meats and assorted asparagus dishes prepared by a white-coated chef. The brunch was the 31st to be held in Fire Island's Pines community to raise money for Lambda Legal, the gay movement's litigation arm. At last year's brunch, cheers went up virtually every time Barack Obama's name was uttered. This time, when Lambda executive director Kevin Cathcart began to review the President's record on gay issues, he was greeted with steely silence.

That silence — because it came from some of the most generous gay political donors in the country — is key to understanding the confusing position the Obama Administration took this week on whether gays and lesbians should enjoy equal marriage rights.

Try to thread this needle: The President has stated his opposition to marriage equality many times. In fact, during his campaign, he pandered to African-American audiences — a group that was already for him — by inviting a black singer named Donnie McClurkin to perform at his events; McClurkin believes one's sexuality can be changed by praying to Jesus Christ. And yet Obama has also said he opposes Public Law No. 104-199, 110 Statute 2419, a 1996 bill (signed by President Clinton) that anti-gay forces called the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. Obama has said several times that he would like that law overturned.

And yet — sorry, the contradictions keep coming — once Obama was elected, and once a gay couple in California had sued to overturn DOMA, his Administration not only defended the law, but defended it in a legal argument so reactionary that it would embarrass Dick Cheney (who, incidentally, is to the left of Obama on marriage). In that argument — here's a PDF courtesy of Georgetown professor Nan Hunter — Obama's lawyers noted that "courts have widely held that certain marriages performed elsewhere need not be given effect, because they conflicted with ... public policy." The examples the Justice Department offered: "marriage of uncle to niece," "marriage of 16-year-old," "marriage of first cousins."

That argument — that two consenting adult men marrying isn't unlike a man marrying his niece — led to the silence at that Fire Island brunch. And as I have pointed out before, Obama loves to raise political donations; he has plainly begun to worry about his standing among the rich homosexuals who used to fawn over him. As the New York Times' Adam Nagourney first reported, the California legal brief was one reason that a prominent gay supporter of Obama's went to the Oval Office in late June to express, for 15 full minutes, the gay community's deep disappointment.

And so this week we get a new legal brief from the Obama Administration in the California case, this one denuded of the execrable incest defense. This time (here's another PDF from Hunter), Obama flip-flops again — now back to his campaign position. (It must be dizzying to work in the White House these days.) Now the Administration says it opposes DOMA and wants it overturned — but that tradition dictates that it defend the law. And that is why, the White House said in a statement, "the Department of Justice has filed a response to a legal challenge to [DOMA], as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged."

Legalistically speaking, the tradition argument is true, but it's yet another Obama dodge. The Administration could easily decline to defend the anti-gay law on discrimination grounds, just as the Administration of George H.W. Bush declined to defend federal laws setting a preference for awarding broadcast licenses to minority-owned businesses in 1990. The radical firebrand at the Department of Justice who successfully argued against defending those laws? A young DOJ attorney named John Roberts, who is now the Chief Justice of the United States. Clearly, Obama could have refused to defend DOMA if he had really wanted to. Georgetown's Hunter cites other cases in which the Justice Department has declined to defend laws, including one involving a minor cable-TV dispute. As Eugene Volokh of UCLA told me Aug. 18, there is nothing in the constitution or the law that would have prevented the Department of Justice from sitting on the sidelines in the DOMA case.

Nothing except politics. Obama's triangulation between left and right has become excruciatingly obvious on this issue, and he's not quite as deft a politician as Bill Clinton at keeping his left flank at bay. I wouldn't be surprised if, next summer at the 32nd Fire Island Pines fundraiser for Lambda, I hear booing when the President's name is mentioned.

http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/...1917344,00.html

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I'm totally on the side of the reporter. I feel very disappointed by Obama, a man who knows what it's like to experience prejudice.

I'm disheartened that he isn't making more of an effort for gay rights. Even that total ultra-maroon Dick Cheney (!) is now for gay marriage. (Sure, now that he's out of office and is writing a potential best-selling autobiography.)

I'm really bummed-out about this. But at least more news reporters are picking up on this. People are paying attention, and I think they're beginning to understand there's other issues beyond just the economy and unemployment out there that threaten America.

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Unfortunately, it isn't just America that is threatened.

We are at the edge of a new dark age unless we stand and make it known that decent people everywhere do indeed support marriage and freedom for gays as a human rights issue.

I have watched as the Democrats and the administration seem to be filibustering their own agenda. At least that is something with which the Republicans seem to be helping them.

However, while my concerns are certainly on the side of defending and gaining human rights, I am also concerned with the reaction of friendly people in the media who are just blaming Obama. A the moment all I can see is outrage even though it is justified and I don't think that is helpful, because it is not being directed towards defeating the naysayers. In fact such denunciation of the administration has the effect of supporting those who would keep both the health insurance bill and marriage equality from becoming law.

I think a better approach would be to remind Obama and the Democrats that people do in fact support change. Yes CHANGE, after all, change was the word used by the Obama campaign.

Pro-Obama public figures and sympathetic media personalities are criticizing Obama when I think they should be calling for people to show support of the legislation on Health and gay marriage.

It may just be the case that Obama needs the voice and support of the people to be able to combat the Republican and Democrat conservatives. If he is receiving and feeling overwhelmed by the wrong advice from within his own party/administration, then he will need to know that the people support his statements of change.

At present his program is being stalled and I suspect he is not happy about that, but it is possible he is being out-manipulated from all sides and needs to see support from the American people to effect the changes he seemed so keen to implement.

If such manipulation of the President is occurring, it represents a new and most dangerous form of assassination.

Just my thoughts.

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Rick, were is simply a matter of marriage I would agree with you. In fact I would go further and advocate that no government sponsor marriage in its currently understood concept. Instead, all governments should modify their laws to accept civil unions because that way anyone is free to participate without regard to the religious beliefs of anyone. Plus, from the government standpoint, by making it civil unions it is a mater of contract law and removes all connection with religion, and since I'm against governments meddling in religion, that is good. This does not mean that I am against churches "sanctifying" (their concept) marriage if they wish to, but it should not be a government function.

Having said that, the battle is much larger than the marriage issue. It has turned into a battle of equal rights. Gays and Lesbians rightly see it as not having equal rights because they do not have the right to marry, and some of the opponents see denying the right to marry as a way to show their displeasure with and to discriminate against homosexuals. In light of that, I have gone from being a supporter of civil unions to being a supporter of gay marriage even though I still think we would be better off with governments getting out of the marriage business and going into the civil union business. The marriage concept has too many religious connotations, in the minds of a large segment of the population, for governments to be involved in it.

Understand that I am not saying that your idea is wrong because I think you are right that it would be easier to get civil unions, and that it would be less confrontational to those against gay marriage, but it would not solve the true battle for equal rights because by denying gays the right to marry would allow those against gay marriage to believe that they had won and they would not be forced to extend equality to gays, nor would it satisfy the proponents of gay marriage. Were it possible to get a civil rights amendment that recognized that gays and lesbians had equal rights I would be in favor of civil unions for everyone from the government standpoint, and those who wished a religious ceremony could have one in addition to their civil union. Just my thoughts on the subject.

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I think the most overlooked aspect of the marriage issue , in a kind of 'not seeing the forest for the trees' way, is that equal access to human rights is being denied, as Fritz intimates.

Like many others of my age, and probably as a result of my age, I (and my partner) are not really interested in marrying (each other or anyone else). Marriage is an institution that holds no attraction for us. As a political statement however, same-sex marriage becomes symbolic of the release from having been ignored, ostracized, ridiculed, oppressed, beaten, murdered, tortured; and in short for denial of our very existence, of our legitimate lives and loves, because of our homosexuality.

Other oppressed peoples have suffered in similar manner. Who could deny women, or those whose skin was not the "proper" colour, or the physically disadvantaged, their access to human rights, to equality?

So, because it is denied to us, the freedom to choose to marry becomes a measure of equality. If you are limited in your ability to choose, you are not equal to those who are not so limited.

Granting civil unions, but not marriage, to same sex couples is akin to saying, people with certain skin colour can only marry people of the same hue. How ironic!

When civil marriages between heterosexual couples were first allowed in my state, the religions all proclaimed it was a sure sign that the populace had lost respect for God and that our eternal souls were in jeopardy. Be that as it may, life on Earth continued as it had before; heterosexuals fell in love, had a civil union, or a marriage, or both, begot children, got a divorce or lived together happily ever after (sometimes).

The same-sex marriage issue is about the state of matrimony being available to everyone, equally. The churches may choose according to their dogma to grant "Holy matrimony", but when the State denies marriage to couples of the same or differing genders, race or creed, then it does so in violation of the freedom of Human Rights.

Civil union does not cut it. Only the ability to choose marriage affirms the equality of all the people.

The second part of this issue is then how to address and correct this violation where it occurs in any given society.

If we had a Martin Luther King or a Gandhi, we might well see them lead a passive resistance in some way, and with that in mind I am all for brituk18's softly, softly approach, provided it is a passive resistance which yields equality. It is in this endeavour that I previously stated that we should show Obama that there is support for his pre-election statements for gay equality, by rallying the public voice to assert its approval.

This is not easy and the gentle, softer, but active approach is the favoured option to realise public support, peacefully, even though some confrontation is going to be inevitable.

We, who have realised our same-sex attraction, are not an aggressive people by nature, but we must be prepared to stand our ground and demand our Human Rights. Harvey Milk and Stonewall both, have shown us that.

If the survival of same sex attraction relied on our passing our genetic structure to our children, we would have been wiped out centuries ago. Same-sex attraction is part of nature, part of the human experience and condition, no matter how much it is denied by various 'authorities.'

The only reason they keep coming up with the, "only 10% are gay" figure, is because everyone else is brainwashed into thinking they aren't as attracted to each other as they are, regardless of gender.

Same-sex attraction, is part of human love, and the ability to express that love, physically, in a marriage if we so choose, is something which must be recognised, defended, and accepted as a Universal Human Right, equally available to all, (above the age of consent, of course.)

We'll know when we have succeeded, the church will try to make gay marriage compulsory. :hug:

That's the way I see it anyway. :omg:

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Des, one of the arguments being made is that it's too soon for people to fight for gay marriage in California, so soon after the Prop 8 disaster. The fear is that if we actively campaign for it right now, only a year after it failed, this might trigger more hostility from the anti-gay rights people out there.

I think as long as the proposal stresses that no church will be forced to allow gay marriage, I can't see what the big objection will be. The two big Prop 8 points in commercials were:

1) showing priests and ministers warning viewers that gays were going to insist on being allowed to get married in any church (even a Catholic church)

and

2) the "gay agenda" (whatever that is) forcing schools to teach young children that gay marriage is acceptable.

I think if both points are covered in the new proposal, this would defuse any objections. I also think if a pro-gay marriage campaign targeted the main groups who voted it down the last time, we have a fighting chance of winning this time. Even the governator of California is for it:

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/nov/10/local/me-protest10

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Des, one of the arguments being made is that it's too soon for people to fight for gay marriage in California, so soon after the Prop 8 disaster. The fear is that if we actively campaign for it right now, only a year after it failed, this might trigger more hostility from the anti-gay rights people out there.

I think as long as the proposal stresses that no church will be forced to allow gay marriage, I can't see what the big objection will be. The two big Prop 8 points in commercials were:

1) showing priests and ministers warning viewers that gays were going to insist on being allowed to get married in any church (even a Catholic church)

and

2) the "gay agenda" (whatever that is) forcing schools to teach young children that gay marriage is acceptable.

I think if both points are covered in the new proposal, this would defuse any objections. I also think if a pro-gay marriage campaign targeted the main groups who voted it down the last time, we have a fighting chance of winning this time. Even the governator of California is for it:

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/nov/10/local/me-protest10

As I said in my post,

The churches may choose according to their dogma to grant "Holy matrimony", but when the State denies marriage to couples of the same or differing genders, race or creed, then it does so in violation of the freedom of Human Rights.

It's not a question of whether it is too soon to fight for gay marriage; it's that it is never too soon to claim human rights. Please don't interpret that statement to be a call to arms. Violent demonstrations will not achieve anything but hostile retaliation.

However we can agree with Arnie and seek to educate our opponents. Many of them are quite reasonable individuals when they are approached away from the influence of their hardline organisations.

The groundwork to overturn Prop 8 is to go out and demonstrate, peacefully, that we are not a threat to their beliefs. I'm sorry if I did not make that point clear. My post was meant to be a look at the background of human sexuality as a human right. If we understand that the freedom of expression extends to the right to love and go to bed with whom we wish in a consensual relationship, without condemnation via being refused equality of the right to marry, then our motivation and objectives are that much stronger. We must understand it is a human right that is being denied. That is an issue beyond prop 8 which however, it does include.

The demand for human rights is an agenda not restricted to gays.

:hug:

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I think this furthers my view of the softly, softly, approach. If the issues are sought after in a more laid back and undemanding way then small but significant steps are made in what can only be the right direction. This step is a little more than significant and advances our female gay friends rights quite a long way. This, in the UK of course, where we've enjoyed a strong civil partnership law for several years now. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8225158.stm

Rick

if you mean to ask nicely for marriage or say if we are allowed so marry, here in the states will work, i strongly disagree. Massachusetts has gay marriage, btw marriage wasn't always about religion that was added later, People do not feel as equal just for a civil union. And other benefits do not equal with cilvil unions.

I also sent you a pm.

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I can't embrace your cynicism.

Wait. See how you feel after decades of no progress, no hope for it and no realistic path to change in sight.

Watch your politicians promise you the moon and sell you down the river- over and over.

My message is not to pin your hopes and dreams to politicians but embrace self reliance. Build what you want for yourself not because of a corrupt government and lying politicians but in spite of them.

I will survive and thrive regardless of what those idiots do. That is why I resist the urge, regardless of how tempting, to give them the power to make me dependent on them.

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