06/14/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Obama's Marriage Position Sounds Eerily Familiar

Yes, it does apparently seem in line with Sarah Palin and Carrie Prejean. Or at least Governor Palin says so. But that's not exactly what I had in mind.

Here's an exchange on Tuesday between ABC News' Jake Tapper and Robert Gibbs, the White House Press Secretary (emphasis added):

Q Okay. And the second question on a completely different topic -- the President opposes same-sex marriage, but he supports giving same-sex couples the same rights as married people.

MR. GIBBS: And benefits.

Q Same rights and benefits. What's your response to critics of his policy who say this is exactly separate but equal?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I would point you to the any number of times that he was asked this during the campaign and addressed it.

Q I don't think he was ever asked is this separate but equal.

MR. GIBBS: No. In fact, it was asked on multiple occasions, and I can pull you something on that. It's the President's belief -- he strongly supports civil unions, and supports ensuring that they have access to the rights and benefits, such as hospital visitation and things like that, that are enjoyed by others.

First of all, kudos to Jake Tapper for pressing the issue. President Obama is a constitutional law professor. That he doesn't openly acknowledge the separate but equal nature of civil unions is ridiculous. As I intimated in the final paragraphs of my most recent post here, the position isn't fooling anybody.

But, for now, the White House is perfectly happy telling me and millions like me that we should be satisfied with (the promise of) the same rights as everyone else, just without being allowed to call it what society would otherwise recognize it as: marriage.

Same rights, different name. Same rights, different vehicle. Same rights, delivered in a different way. Same rights, but....

Now I know what it sounds like:



I emailed the Media Affairs office at the White House to see if they would provide me with the information that Gibbs indicated he would provide to Jake Tapper. The two references are below, but I don't think they are any better than what Gibbs said in his press briefing. The second reference is particularly pitiful because he flat out says that civil unions are not separate but equal.

"Visible Vote '08" Presidential Candidates Forums Sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign and the Logo Network, Federal News Service, 8/9/07:

MR. SOLMONESE: But on the grounds of civil marriage, can you see to our community where it -- that comes across as sounding like separate but equal?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, you know, when my parents got married in 1960, '61, you know, it would have been illegal for them to be married in a number of states in the South.

So obviously, this is something that I understand intimately, it's something that I care about.

But I would also say this, that if I were advising the civil rights movement back in 1961 about its approach to civil rights, I would have probably said it's less important that we focus on an anti- miscegenation law than we focus on a voting rights law and a non- discrimination and employment law and all the legal rights that are conferred by the state.

Now, it's not for me to suggest that you shouldn't be troubled by these issues. I understand that and I'm sympathetic to it. But my job as president is going to be to make sure that the legal rights that have consequences on a day to day basis for loving same sex couples all across the country, that those rights are recognized and enforced by my White House and by my Justice Department.

CARLSON: Before I go to Melissa with a question -- I've been working with the LOGO people for a couple of days, so I have more of a feeling for what troubles them -- it seems like religion owns the word "marriage" or you're letting religion have marriage, and then civilly, you get civil unions.

But you got to get married and I got to get married, but Joe doesn't get to be married. And that really does mean that it's a lesser thing. It looks like a politically feasible thing to do, but...

OBAMA: Well, as I've proposed it, it wouldn't be a lesser thing, from my perspective. And, look, semantics may be important to some. From my perspective, what I'm interested in is making sure that those legal rights are available to people.

And if we have a situation in which civil unions are fully enforced, are widely recognized, people have civil rights under the law, then my sense is that's enormous progress, and that is the kind of progress that I think HRC would be proud of and I would be proud of as president, and that's what I'm going to try to lead.

Copley News Service, 10/27/04:

"During Tuesday's debate, Obama told moderator Phil Ponce that he thought homosexuality was 'for the most part' innate. Ponce then asked Obama if denying gay people marriage wasn't 'separate, but equal' treatment if their sexual orientation is not a choice. 'No,' Obama said. 'I think there are a whole host of things that are civil rights, and then there are other things, such as traditional marriage, that I think express a community's concern and regard for a particular institution.'"

Transcript here:; relevant portion starts on pg 21