Listeners Respond: Obama's Cautious Gay Marriage Stance

Friday, June 24, 2011

Gay Marriage (Getty Images)

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.


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Comments [32]

Antonia Gilligan from Emerson, NJ

As a transgendered woman who has been politically active for 30 years, I understand Obama. He has his heart in the right place but he will not risk his election chances to provide civil rights to a minority. Yes, he knows that Iowa, Texas and Kansas are not going to vote for any "Gay Loving" president.

He lacks the courage of his convictions. He brings change that doesn't happen. I voted for him so I truly feel disappointed. The few things he has done are marginal and made worse by the legislation President Clinton signed .. DoM and "Don't Ask Don't Tell". It took President Obama 28 months to figure out that the army would be better getting gays that high school drop outs...The reality of need drove that decision.

What has he risked? Nothing. What about his claim of being transparent? Can anybody explain his stand. Recall he is highly educated humanist who doesn't attend church on a weekly basis. He is in favor of giving legal rights to illegals but has thrown gays under the bus. Why does he favor the claims of illegals, who are driving down wages and killing unions. But hardworking lesbians and gays can't look to the President for support in the face of generations of oppression.

He says that marriage should be between a man and a woman. How does he define man and woman? Biologist have problems defining gender. How will he do it? What about androgen insensitivity disease, Mr. President. genetic males but the phenotype is female. How do you handle that?

Antonia Gilligan

Jun. 29 2011 07:42 AM

Did I hear correctly that WNYC is going to do on-air gay marriage proposals during the Brian Lehrer Show on Monday? If so - forget my 20 years of support to public radio at this station and others. I support gay marriage, but airing live proposals???? Not my station any more.

Jun. 26 2011 08:06 PM
dboy from nyc

@ jgarbuz

I think we're on the same page... save the goofball, make believe, religious rhetoric.

Jun. 24 2011 11:14 AM
Lou from Queens

Does WNYC no longer even care to make a pretense of being fair? It's clear you champion this idea. Who do we call in Albany to give support to those who believe marriage is between a man and a women, and that homosexual behavior is not something the state should support or encourage?

Jun. 24 2011 11:06 AM


"Marriage" is a religious term, where a male and a female take an oath before the representatives of God (as defined by that particular religion), and before witnesses, which commits themselves to each other for a lifetime, and a violation of the oath is ADULTERY.

The state had no business getting involved in marriage in the first place, and definitely no right to redefine the term itself now! The State should get OUT of the business of "marriage" and confine itself to registering civil unions of any TWO people who want to do so for tax and legal reasons. I say "two people," because I do not believe we should go back to polygamy, or condone bestiality. But that may be next if we continue to redefine the term "marriage."

Jun. 24 2011 11:05 AM
dboy from nyc

The state MUST extend equal rights to all couples. The exact same contract to all!!!

The goofball churches can do whatever they want. If you show-up to a church as a "same sex" couple and they turn you away... GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!

Jun. 24 2011 10:58 AM
Frank from Morristown

Is it possible that Obama's stance is as much personal as political? He, like many married heteros, supports full rights and legal equivalence at all levels for "civil unions" but hesitates at the word "marriage". Both gays and heteros should admit that this latter issue is more an emotional than a legal issue for both groups because of all that is attached to the word "marriage". If that is true, acceptance of gay couples by heteros will cintinue to be impeded and exacerbated by focusing on "marriage" rather than full legal rights. Simple laws in states and federal could solve the the legal aspects by stating that all rights and responsibilities accorded to married couples are accorded to civil unions.
In comparison to black and woman's equality, gay rights have achieved much more in the relatively short time since Stonewall. And time may be the ultimate solution to the emotional part of the "marriage" issue.

Jun. 24 2011 10:56 AM

To Donna

You've got it exactly right! And if gays want to start their own religions, with their own churches, synagogues, mosques or temples of their own to get married in, then so be it. But keep the state out of it! The state should only register civil unions for tax and other legal purposes, and not redefine marriage.

Jun. 24 2011 10:55 AM
dboy from nyc

I'm sick of the religious nuts both here and in the rest of the world.



Jun. 24 2011 10:54 AM
Roslyn from Manhattan

There seems to be an uncomfortable thrust to impose gay marriage on the entire society. If one is progressive, liberal, and an overall fair-minded person yet is not in agreement on gay marriage then the covert label of being biased and much worse is tagged. I consider myself liberal and open minded yet prefer Legal Unions for committed same sex couples. You won't find me marching, demonstrating, or ranting over the issue; yet both in heart and mind, I stand with the President and will not allow myself to feel shamed by this opinion.

Jun. 24 2011 10:52 AM
Kabir from New York City

Marriage is a religious institution, no? Let the churches decide marriage (many churches honor same-sex marriage and many do not), and let the government honor all partnerships. The constitution already covers this.

Jun. 24 2011 10:52 AM
donna from bklyn

i think the entire discussion needs to be reframed. instead of talking about gay marriage vs traditional marriage the discussion needs to be about civil marriage vs religious marriage. civil marriage (married by a civil authority -- eg at city hall, in a nonreligious venue by a judge or other authorized person, etc) should be available to every person above the age of consent in every state. religious marriage (married in a church, synagogue, etc by a priest, rabbi, etc) is where distinctions (discrimination) can be tolerated in accordance with the doctrine/beliefs of each religion

Jun. 24 2011 10:50 AM
carolita from nyc

I think no one should be married by the state. I believe in civic unions for everyone, hetero or gay. Marriage, as a religious rite, should not be performed by the state. Once you have your civic union, you should be able to find a church that suits you, and get married there.

People used to consider themselves unmarried in the eyes of god until they got married in a church, even when married by the state. I say they had something there.

Jun. 24 2011 10:49 AM

What if I don't wanna get married? Will I lose my domestic partnership rights?

Jun. 24 2011 10:49 AM
dboy from nyc

It is a shame that gay culture is forced to adopt this dumb paradigm from archaic straight, patriarchal culture to be treated the same as everyone else!!!



Jun. 24 2011 10:46 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I take an entirely different stand on this issue:

For starters, I do not believe in gay marriage, but for a variety of reasons other than discrimination.

Originally, marriage was entered into for reasons of procreation and having a family within which to do this. Prior to our current scientific advances in reproductive medicine, it would only have been possible to adopt a child if one could not have one via the normal biological route, which generally includes a male and a female; hence the requirement of heterosexual marriage.

In addition, most marriage had its origins in religion rather than law, and anyone who is a practicing member of any religion should know its views on marriage - any kind of marriage - and would, one would think, abide by those views, whichever way they go.

That said, there are many laws involved in marriage, so that the mere legal right to marry is not the only issue that would be on the table. I think that gay proponents of gay marriage may not have thought all this through before their insistence on being allowed to marry, i.e., they would then have the possibility of engaging in divorce, which is far less fun than merely breaking up and moving on.

On the other hand, there are legal rights that protect anyone, married or otherwise, that can be used within the confines of any relationship. Wills, for example, are meant to carry out the intentions of the deceased and that includes leaving one's estate to one's partner. A good estate attorney can put together a Will that is pretty much iron clad and won't prevent inheritance, etc.

Finally, the LGBT community needs to understand that opposition to gay marriage is NOT tantamount to discrimination against LGBT persons as individuals.

Jun. 24 2011 10:46 AM

To Leah,

I think you may be Jewish, and under Jewish law, sterility, infertility and impotence are ground for divorce in Jewish law. One of the few grounds that a women under ancient Hebrew law could divorce her husband is if he denied her sex, or was incapable of impregnating her.

Of course, in modern times, marriage is no longer the concept of building of family, but more to do with taxation, benefits and other legal matters, and the concept of "family" hardly even enters into it anymore.

Jun. 24 2011 10:45 AM
John from NYC

I am really tired of the gay community picking on Obama for not doing enough. When they ridicule the President's 'evolve comment' they are smacking of racial condescension.
This President has within his 1st term repealed DADT and has stopped enforcing DOMA. What are they saying - it should have been faster!

We live in a democracy not a dictatorship. Also why shouldn't the President have the right to evolve his thinking? Not everyone has lived with the idea of Gay marriage.

There seems to be an intolerance of anybody else having a different idea. Barney Frank once remarked that Gay marriage's time will come. He didn't immediately come to the idea.

Jun. 24 2011 10:44 AM
Ben from Manhattan

@john from office - the man really stands for nothing. I mean he literally does say whatever it takes to take in campaign money and then will change his tune a day later for a different group. His heart is not in the right place, because he stands for nothing IMO. I cannot and will not blindly support someone because of the letter next to his name, particualry when he does nothing to support the values that are important to me, I'm sorry. At that point the alternative is not much different

Jun. 24 2011 10:41 AM

Our country is at the verge of fiscal insolvency and possibly bankruptcy, and poor, aged and disabled people may soon be thrown into the streets to starve and die, and we are discussing such NONSENSE as "same sex marriage!" Boy are our priorities screwed up!

Let gays suffer having their OWN babies, and stop wanting to buy them from poor single mothers! If gays can't have babies, they should stop asking for marriage!!!

Jun. 24 2011 10:40 AM
Pearl from NYC

I think he's trying to toe the line for political reasons, but I wish he would stand more strongly for in support. When his parents married, their own union was still illegal in more than 20 states (and wasn't corrected until Loving v. Virginia in 1967). The fight for gay marriage strongly reflects the arguments for and against interracial marriage before this Supreme Court case, and I want him to recognize this publicly.

Jun. 24 2011 10:39 AM
Matt from Union, NJ

Pride Weekend is such a joke. As a gay male, I get frustrated by the hyprocrisy of the gay community every year. We all scream about equal rights, but refuse to act like equal members of the country! Until we're willing to let go of our antiquated subculture and become part of the status quo, how dare we demand equality. Equality=Equality. Period.

Jun. 24 2011 10:37 AM

I'll give Gays the "freedom to marry" when they can prove they can have their own babies without having to adopt them from others!

Personally, I believe the government should end civil marriage altogether, and switch over strictly to civil unions. The definition of marriage should remain a religious term referring to a solemn covenant made before God and His earthly representatives, and not before some state bureaucrat.

Jun. 24 2011 10:36 AM
John from office

Matt, please explain your position. What do you mean??

Jun. 24 2011 10:36 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Well said jga - by an accident of history and language, government got into the Marriage business.

Jun. 24 2011 10:36 AM
Leah from Brooklyn

The "states should be independent to make their own choices" caller must be really bummed the Articles of Confederation didn't work out.

Jun. 24 2011 10:35 AM
Nathan from Hoboken, NJ

I find it offensive that a man that is a product of a union that was illegal in this nation in my life span cannot have the moral courage to defend civil rights. It is the obligation of the government to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority.

Jun. 24 2011 10:34 AM
Leah from Brooklyn

@jgarbuz: What about heterosexual couples that are infertile? By your logic they should be denied the right to marry.

Jun. 24 2011 10:34 AM
john from office

Ben and Robert, Obama has his heart in the right place. But, he needs to get elected and the US is not made up of only the east and west coast. Sitting the next election out will insure a Paline, or some other nuts, election.

Jun. 24 2011 10:34 AM
sp from nyc

Too cute by half. Very disappointed that he can't take an ethical stand on civil rights.

Jun. 24 2011 10:32 AM
Ben from Manhattan

Obama is so two faced on this issue. He will say whatever he needs to in order to get campaign money. I'm tired of him and will probably sit the next election cycle out.

Jun. 24 2011 10:29 AM
Robert from NYC

I wish I could express how I feel about this and the response from my gay bothers and sisters who still support him but it's so vulgar that even I would offend myself. Let's just say the whole thing stinks to hell and the gay community really sucks (no pun intended) politically. It's time real political pressure was put on this administration. As long as they continue to act like second class citizens they'll be treated as such.

Jun. 24 2011 10:04 AM

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