At today’s press conference, White House spokesman Jay Carney took questions about the President’s persistent, unwavering evolution on marriage equality and there was no change, despite the growing support by fellow Dems to place a statement supporting same-sex marriage in the party platform. From the White House transcript (via email):
Q Thanks, Jay. Democrats in support of same-sex marriage are speaking more loudly on the issue. Twenty-two U.S. senators have told me they support the idea of including a marriage equality plank in a Democratic Party platform. And yesterday, Democratic National Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa also said he backs such language, saying, “I think it’s basic to who we are.” By being in a state of evolution now on this issue for nearly 17 months, is the President deferring leadership in his own party?
MR. CARNEY: No, Chris, I can tell you that he is not engaged in the very early stages of what I understand to be the platform development, and I would refer you simply to discussions that the folks you mentioned are having. But the President’s position hasn’t changed. I certainly have no new announcement to make on it.
Q But by being in a state of evolution, I mean, the President is missing an opportunity to lead not just the Democratic Party but for the country as a whole. So I –
MR. CARNEY: I appreciate the question. I just don’t have anything new to report to you on it.
Q Just to follow up on that — can you identify what is obstructing the President from completing his evolution on this issue? Is there some sort of fear of political backlash during an election year? You mentioned something before about this process involving the President’s faith.
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry, the last part of your question?
Q You mentioned something about this process involving the President’s faith.
MR. CARNEY: Well, now, look, I would leave it to the President. Perhaps he wasn’t asked about this. Maybe the next time he gives a press conference one of you can ask him about it. It’s entirely up to you if you want to be told, which you might be, that he doesn’t have any news to make on it. But — (laughter) — I really have no update for you.
I’ll give props for the honest attempt to address the fact that there are going to be ballot initiatives around the country, including Amendment One here in North Carolina; but the question as it is posed misses an opportunity to nail the administration on its current position that it opposes ballot initiatives that would restrict or deny rights – this involves no evolution on Barack Obama’s part at all. Instead Carney is asked about it in the context of ballot initiatives legalizing same-sex marriage.
Q One last question on this. Marriage is going to be on the ballot and it’s become — it’s going to be in the ballot for voters in as many as five states this year. In North Carolina, that’s going to happen — for voters in May. Will the President announce same-sex marriage before it’s too late to help — to start conversations that help gay and lesbian couples who are seeking to get married in these states?
MR. CARNEY: That’s a circuitous way of asking the same question, and I just don’t have any updates for you on the President’s position.
My good friend Joe Sudbay has a piece up at Huffington Post about that slow evolution, “Mr. President, It’s Been 500 Days… Evolve Already!” In 2010 he asked Barack Obama about his position on marriage equality — that’s the 500 days and counting — Obama said he was:
“unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage.” But the president did make news. He said he was evolving on the issue: “I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine.”
During our back-and-forth, Mr. Obama added, “The one thing I will say today is I think it’s pretty clear where the trend lines are going.”
It is pretty clear, and it gets clearer every day. The other thing that’s pretty clear: President Obama is behind the trend. Way behind.
And when it comes to political calculations — worry that even stating that he’s against Amendment One is political dynamite — it’s pathetic that purported allies, even gay folks are buying this line. There’s nothing factual to support that it will tank Barack Obama’s re-election. In my opinion (and Joe’s) this also applies to the separate issue of “coming out” for marriage equality (something even intelligent people seem to conflate with stopping a discriminatory amendment — marriage equality is not on the ballot in NC, peeps).
Over the course of the campaign, the president will be asked again and again about his stance on marriage equality. With court cases moving through the system and marriage referenda on the ballots in five states, marriage equality is an issue in 2012. There’s no way to avoid it, especially when the president finds himself in North Carolina, Maryland, Maine, Washington, and Minnesota. There’s also a serious effort underway by Freedom to Marry to have marriage equality included in the Democratic platform, which many of the president’s campaign co-chairs support.
And yes, I get that the GOP candidates are in lockstep with the anti-gay organizations and that rhetorical gay-bashing will be a regular element of their nominee’s campaign. But that doesn’t mean Obama shouldn’t evolve.
Realistically, the people who would withhold a vote for Obama because of his support for gay issues are never going to vote for him. They already think he supports gay marriage.
Who, exactly, will be driven to vote for, say, Mitt Romney over the President on this issue?