Political Animal


May 06, 2012 10:51 AM Biden Supports Gay Marriage

By Jesse Singal

As ThinkProgress points out, he has become the highest-ranking American official ever to support full-blown marriage equality (as opposed to civil unions). “His comments signify a split within the Obama administration,” Igor Volsky writes, “and may pave the way for President Obama — who says he supports civil unions and is still evolving on the matter — to also embrace equality.”

I have to admit that I have never thought Obama is being honest on this front. When you look at his background, at his political coming-of-age, at all the progressive folks who have shaped his views along the way, it just doesn’t strike me as plausible that Obama would have any real problem with gay marriage. I think his stance reflects political expediency, not his true beliefs. But either way, here’s hoping he “evolves.”

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.


  • c u n d gulag on May 06, 2012 11:14 AM:

    I think you're exactly right.

    Obama's position, while leaning left, doesn't allow them to hang another thing around his neck (and yes, that exactly the image I'm going for).

    It's bad enough that they hate him because he's a Democrat, and a Blackity-black, black Democrat. He doesn't want them to hang the "fag-hag" label on him, too.

    I really don't understand why, at this point, he should still care what they think of him and his position.

    They can't hate him any more if he comes out for gay marriage.
    They already hate him as much as one "human" can another.
    They hate him, not because he's a Democrat, and/or a black one, or that he may support gay marriage - THEY HATE HIM FOR STILL BREATHING!!!

  • Charley Twosix on May 06, 2012 11:32 AM:

    I don't understand why marriage, a supposedly spiritual ceremony, is not left to religious groups and why if any two persons considered adults want to have a legal relationship and qualify as a household a civil union wouldn't be required, no restrictions. One need not and should not overlap the other.

  • hornblower on May 06, 2012 11:41 AM:

    Marriage is a state issue. The President is under no obligation to give an opinion on every point of contention.

  • c u n d gulag on May 06, 2012 11:43 AM:

    No one is forcing any church to gay marry people.
    Not one person.
    Not one church.
    Not no-where.
    Not no-way.
    Not no-how.

    This is about respecting the rights of people who are married, regardless of sexual orientation, to make sure that people in same-sex marriages have the same legal and civil rights, as those in the traditional mixed-sex marriages.

    And that if you move from, let's say, NY or MA, to NC, that you'll retain those rights.

    In the best of all possible worlds, we wouldn't need to make these idiotic distinctions, and that two people together who said they were "a couple,' could enjoy all of the rights, like inheritance, and hospital visitation, etc.

    But we don't live in the best of all possible worlds.
    Not even close...

  • exlibra on May 06, 2012 12:01 PM:

    Charley Twosix, @11:32

    It would work but only if the entire country switched to the same pattern: civil union, administered by a court representative (magistrate?), as the only legally recognized vehicle, *for everyone*. Then, on top of that, a religious blessing, which would not be a binding contract by itself.

    I myself always preferred that option but then I'm a born-and-bred atheist and couldn't care less about the church's blessing. I was married in church, because my husband's family was very religious. But I always felt weird about being married by a guy in fancy dress, instead of a court clerk wearing the chain with the seal. Totally irrational, since both look a bit "funny".

  • James on May 06, 2012 12:23 PM:

    I don't know. I think you may be projecting your own views on Obama. It's been a bad habit of progressives to impute their own views and hear what they want to hear with respect, especially, to Obama.

    The fact is, a lot of African Americans are not comfortable with gay marriage. A lot of African Americans are not comfortable with gay rights, period. It's been a struggle for African American gays to come out to their families and their churches, which fundamentally are very socially conservative.

    It's a little much for you to impute your own views on someone you don't know, and then accuse him of dishonesty. You don't really know, do you?

  • John on May 06, 2012 12:26 PM:

    Marriage has always been a civil contract as much as, or more than, it's been a religious one. Civil marriage dates back to ancient Rome. The idea that the word "marriage" should not be used to describe civil marriages is just a terrible one.

    Also, is there anybody in America who thinks that Obama's "opposition" to gay marriage is the least bit sincere at this point? It was implausible in 2008, and as soon as he said he was "evolving" on the issue it was pretty clear that his opposition is entirely about political expediency.

  • DAY on May 06, 2012 12:32 PM:

    As the saying goes, "politics ain't beanbags."
    What is the upside of Obama embracing gay marriage? He probably already has their vote- considering the alternative.
    And the downside is the chance to lose a few fence sitters- perhaps ones with 'closet issues'.

  • Rick B on May 06, 2012 1:13 PM:

    @c u n d Gulag 11:14 AM

    I agree with you, but I don't think Obama cares what the right wingers think of him at all. They amount to about 38-40% of the voters and they will vote against him every election. They are probably the most reliable block of voters in any election. They've got theirs and they are running scared that someone is going to take what they have away from them. No one is going to change their minds. Their 'ideology' is essentially that anything anyone says is designed to either rile up their fear of change or placate their belief that they currently own the world. Obama as an African-American Democratic President represents all they fear no matter what he says or does. He's the hornet buzzing in their car as they drive along the freeway and they'll swat at him reflexively.

    There are also the liberals/progressives/liberal-and-thinking people who will rationally choose the better candidate. I have less of a feel for how big a block they represent but it is at a minimum about 40% of those likely to vote. What Obama says and does is very important to these people. Most of them are influenced by what Obama and his staff do and say.

    Then there are the low-information potential voters who flip the TV off the news and over to Survivor or Dancing with the Stars until late September when they begin to notice that a lot of people are making noise about something and suddenly realize that maybe an election or something is coming up. By then they'll have a bias built up for one candidate or another and they'll start looking for reasons to confirm that bias. In past elections the right-wing money and religious leaders have done a great job of building that bias long in advance of any election, but this time that seems to me to be what Obama is doing. He's trying to counter the right-wing propaganda and build a bias into the low-information voters to vote Obama rather that for the crazy reactionaries. (This is how I interpret Haidt's "The Righteous Mind." Haidt's personal reaction that both sides are equally bad is just silly, but his science is good. Haidt ignores the fact that the right-wing extremists will destroy democracy if they can get the chance. The left will not.)

    That's why Obama is concerned about how he is perceived. The hard right cannot be swayed, but the firedoggers on the left can. But that critical group of low-information potential voters in the middle will decide this election. He has to build their emotional bias in his favor and then just before the election when they are looking for reasons to confirm their bias he will have to give them rational reasons to vote for him, and to top it off he has to do this through mass communications that can potentially reach every interested voter who bothers to turn in from now until the election.

    c u n d gulag 11:43 AM

    This whole issue is not about marriage itself. It's about social control. As America's communications nets expand the need for the entire nation to have common social standards grows. But the local power centers which previously established local social standards feel the threads of control slipping from them and going to the center (Washington.) The state-established definitions of marriage are one clear issue they can make a political issue about.

    The fact is that our population is too mobile for state marriage standards to continue to predominate. What's next? Federal standards for lawyers and CPA's? National prohibitions against local preachers who control local politicians and get them to enforce religious orthodoxy like segregation or anti-LGBTQ laws?

    This battle is really about who sets national standards for who can marry and what it means. The local power centers are losing power to the central power - as is inevitable in every modern industrialized nation. The entire conservative movement is a reaction against modernism and the centralization of standards

  • Anonymous on May 06, 2012 1:39 PM:

    it's reasonable to assume that obama has been not so honest about this issue because as state senator, he supported gay marriage in illinois wheres on marihuana, he always maintained that he supports decriminalization, not full legalization since running for state senate office.

    but as his religious supporters including young born-again christians are open to gay marriage, i think it's pretty safe to support federally recognized gay marriage with full benefits now without being accused of violating religious freedom, just as it was on contraception.

  • Charley Twosix on May 06, 2012 1:43 PM:

    c u n d gulag on May 06, 2012 11:43 AM:
    Of course I realize no one is forcing churches to marry anyone.

    Civil unions should be Federal policy. I've been told that in Mexico you can be married in a church, but it's not legally recognized until there is a civil ceremony.

    John on May 06, 2012 12:26 PM:

    The idea that the word "marriage" should not be used to describe civil marriages is just a terrible one.

    The term is not worth the argument.

  • c u n d gulag on May 06, 2012 2:07 PM:

    Rick B,
    I think the entire conservative movement is all about 'One man, one woman, and one cave.'

  • axt113 on May 06, 2012 4:56 PM:

    Sorry Hornblower "Loving V Virginia" showed that Marriage is not a state issue

    14th Amendment makes it illegal for any state to prevent people from getting married,

  • Doug on May 06, 2012 7:19 PM:

    Any time a minister or priest performs a marriage ceremony, the only LEGALLY RECOGNIZED part of that ceremony is when the couple getting married and the minister/priest sign the marriage license, which must then be filed at, usually, the County Clerk's office.
    There is no such thing as a legally-binding and legally-recognized things as a "religious" marriage in this country; ALL marriages are civil. There are marriages performed by ministers/priests whoo combine their roles of deputed Clerks of Record AND ministers of religion, but the only ceremony that meets any legal standard is the signing of the marriage license.
    The ability to serve as a deputed Clerk of Record would be taken away from any minister/priest who refused to marry same-sex couples and THAT is what the uproar is about. No minister or priest could any longer bamboozle members of their flock by refusing to "marry" them - the "marriage" itself would be performed at the County Clerk's office and NOT in church.
    In other words, the authority of the priesthood would be diminshed and we can't have that...

  • Objective Dem on May 06, 2012 9:20 PM:

    I like Obama and fully support him. But I always understood that he is much more a man of the middle than a true progressive.

    My sense is he is truly evolving on gay marriage issue. A friend who is close to him indicated he had issues several years ago due to religious reasons. Sorry to disappoint people but I don't think he really cares about the issue or will expend any political capital making it happen. And frankly as a gay man who strongly believes in gay marriage, it doesn't bother me. I'm more interested in other aspects of the Democratic agenda such as Obamacare which impact much larger numbers of people.

    I also think he is trying to m

  • Rick B on May 07, 2012 2:18 PM:

    @c u n d gulag

    Yeah, and it's a damned shallow 'cave.'

    I am, of course, trying to sell my concept that the problem is rural culture conservatives political leaders vs modern industrial urban culture Americans. It has recently become clear to me that the cultural differences between the rural (low-population density) is radically different from the modern urban (high-population density) culture. The cultural difference clearly explains the religions of the rural societies vs those of the urban societies. But it also explains the class-oriented rural societies vs the equality-oriented urban populations.

    The difference between the people in the two cultures can rather clearly be seen in the education and social equality views of each. America's problem is that the social leaders of the rural-dominated America are not the same as those of urban America.

    Urban Americans are unlikely to defer to someone just because of their family name or their connections. Nor are urban Americans likely to consider either race or sexual orientation to be significant measures of personal status. This frankly disgusts, frightens, and angers the conservative rural Americans.

    It is this core set of values that we are fighting against.

  • Rick B on May 07, 2012 4:10 PM:


    Let's hope Hollande has more of a spine than Obama.

    You don't get it.

    Obama knew if he demonstrated "spine" thenhis ability to get any governing policies passed at all were ended right then. The report in Robert Draper's book of the inauguration day meeting of the treasonous Republican 'Party of NO' proves that was the case. So Obama has governed for three crisis-filled years by catering to the Republicans when he had to. This year the Republicans have pulled out all the stops and Obama has moved into campaign mode.

    There is no effective governing from Washington now until after the election and probably not until Congress regains a Democratic majority in both houses - with no blue dogs in positions to hamstring the nation.

    This is going to be a very interesting election. The Republicans are blatantly proving their treason and their incompetence, and the MSM is going to be reacting to Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein's book It's even worse than it looks. Since Ornstein is one of the MSM favorites they are going to have to react to his accusation they they have failed to expose the Republicans with their "both parties are at fault" faux even-handedness.

    Is Obama center-right? Yeah, probably, but I doubt he has much room for that after this year. The real question is what is going to happen to the Congress in November.