Listeners Respond: Obama's Cautious Gay Marriage Stance

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show,Evan Wolfsen, president of Freedom to Marry, discusses the President’s approach to the issue.

LGBT listeners: What do you think? Is this President a strong enough advocate for gay rights and gay marriage? Let us know!

President Obama held an LGBT fundraiser last night, but stopped short of endorsing gay marriage.

A caller from Long Branch New Jersey said he tips his hat to Obama for attending the dinner, but found the president’s weak stance lacking.

I believe he is playing a political game, that he showed a lack of moral courage by staying just close enough to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community to placate his leftist constituents while staying far enough away from them to not alienate his constituents on the right in preparation for  the 2012 election.

The caller said that while Obama is doing more than the other candidates for 2012, he does agree with Congressman Ron Paul that it should be a state issue.

Wolfsen said the answer to the question of whether it should be a state or a federal decision is that it is both. He said for more than two hundred years in the United States, states issue marriage licenses.

So you don’t get married according to the laws of Congress, you get married according to the laws of [the state] which issued the marriage license that allows you to enter into the legal status of marriage… Even thought you’re married in one state, every state respects and honors, normally, the marriages that other states celebrate. People don’t have to get a marriage visa every time they cross the George Washington bridge. Unfortunately, though, there has been a gay exception carved into the way our country treats marriage.

A caller from Brooklyn finds that the president has evolved to a better stance on gay rights, but says that to her this is a simple question of civil rights.

The president should step up, the same way Harry Truman stepped up back around World War II when he said that Black people should have equal rights in the army.

A caller from Manhattan said that while she believes in gay marriage, she thinks nationwide civil unions might be a better first step toward equality.

I think the country should start with that, with having civil unions be nationwide and in every state.

Wolfsen explained that a lesser parallel partnership would not give the same protection.

One of the main protections that comes with marriage is, when you say “I’m married,” everyone knows who you are in relation to the primary person you are building your life with and doors open, you don’t have to argue, you don’t have to produce a lawyer, you don’t have to pull out a dictionary, you don’t have to carry a sheath of documents — everyone knows what it is.

A caller from East Hampton New York said as LGBT people, voters like her often look to the Democratic party to champion their rights.

For years we have supported them. And for years what we have gotten is a lot of very comforting rhetoric but a failure to move anything forward in the legislative agenda… The reality is, unless we start playing hardball with our Democratic friends in terms of restricting contributions, we’re never going to be moving forward.