Open Phones: Obama Evolves on Gay Marriage

Thursday, May 10, 2012

President Obama has endorsed gay marriage.  Call in with your reactions.

Comments [62]


For those who don't want to hunt around MSNBC's site, which is a tad busy looking, here's the link to what Hugh mentions just below. (T/U, Hugh, for the reference.)

Cory Booker's segment begins with excerpts from his rebuttal of Gov. Chris (We Dasn't Tax the Rich!" Christie' argument that rights of minorities should be subject to majority vote of approval or disapproval.

Begins about 4:13

May. 10 2012 02:14 PM
Cathy from west islip, ny

I have to believe that Brian's very jaundiced view of the President's statement of his personal belief is slanted precipitously by his being a New Yorker. I am too, and am delighted that NYS has made same sex marriage legal, but I know that out in all those vital swing states - Ohio, VA, North Carolina, FL, etc. - this move is likely to get the religious right out to the polls in numbers they may not have been able to muster otherwise. Do not forget 2004; if this bites us in the ass, Biden will have a lot to answer for. And so will the GLBT alliance, which seems to want to push the issue of same-sex marriage, (which is making good progress through the more progressive states), regardless of how it skews the national elections toward the social conservatives. Believe me, if Romney wins, or the Republicans win the Senate, you will be sorry that you have once again allowed this to become a divisive issue that defeats those who hold more tolerant and progressive views.

I also have to say that this is the one issue, in all the years I have been listening to Brian, where he seemed hopelessly prejudiced from the get-go. I found it really troubling. I suggest he listen to the show again. I was shocked by how biased his treatment of this issue was. It made me doubt how fair he has been on other subjects in the past. I found it sobering, even depressing, to think how off center he might be on other subjects where I have always assumed he was presenting issues in a truly fair and balanced manner.

This was not, definitely not, a program to be proud of.

May. 10 2012 02:01 PM
Jim from Brooklyn

Yes the timing was political, but it's not a bad thing that Obama has made this statement. HOWEVER -- My hope is that just because this statement resonates heavily with certain populations, we will not be blinded to the fact that our president is pro-war, for government spying on civilians, helped orchestrate the bailout, hasn't closed Guantanamo, and is just as bound to the corporate rulers of this country as most Republicans. To vote based only on this issue is hardly different in my opinion than the right-wingers who vote solely on candidates' abortion stances. Yes we obviously want equal rights for the LGBT population, but let's not forget about the big picture here!

May. 10 2012 01:59 PM
Hugh from Manhattan

I can't help but feel disappointed by the cynicism surrounding Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage, particularly by some of my gay friends. I say this as both a gay man and as a person who desires equality for all. That a New Yorker would denounce cynicism of any kind is seldom heard of, but in this instance I can only applaud the president's actions. I disregard the questionable timing of and supposed political pressure behind Obama's statements yesterday, and choose instead to view his endorsement as a pivotal moment in American history. Lest we forget, this is the first time a sitting president has publicly stated something so progressive and meaningful. And, perhaps equally notable, the first time a president's policies on such an issue have paralleled his personal opinions. (During his first term in office, George W. Bush proposed a federal ban on same-sex marriage. This did not stop him, however, from stating in his memoir that he not only feels personally at ease with gay men and women, but in fact has LGBT friends he cares a great deal for! Is this supposed to make me, a second class citizen according to that president's policies, feel any better? I'm very inclined to say 'yes,' though my inferior, second-class gay brain fails to see the logic behind that one.)


Brian asked listeners whether we think Obama's support of gay marriage is simply a political tactic to garner him some (much-needed) gay dollars. We can speculate on this issue for decades, but the simple answer is yes, at least in part. I think, however, it's important to note that the Republican party receives an unprecedented amount of campaign donations from vehemently anti-gay coalitions and organizations. Or, more harshly, Republican politics are largely fueled by hate money. Quite frankly, I find nothing questionable about fighting conservatives with funds donated by civil rights activists.

One final thought. This election has developed a rather ironic tagline: "Let's get back to the economy!" The irony is that both parties, but primarily the GOP, have spent their campaign time bitterly arguing over (and trying to diminish) civil rights. The very real Republican War on Women, and now the president's endorsement of same-sex marriage, reveals that the American battle for equality is far from over. But I also predict that this heated, polarized battle for civil rights will have a far greater impact on this election than the stagnant economy. We'll simply have to wait and see.

*Check out Newark Mayor Cory Booker's appearance on Rachel Maddow last night for a truly magnificent display of conviction, frustration, and anger over the state of our nation and attitudes towards civil rights. Free at

May. 10 2012 12:56 PM
Charlotte from queens

Instead of allowing it, why don't we just do away with legal marriage altogether? If your opinion on marriage is that its a "sacred institution," then why should the government have anything to do with it? If you're in it for the tax breaks, fine, but then- why should married folk get a benefit that the rest of us don't? The whole thing just seems absurd...

May. 10 2012 12:23 PM
Cathy from wast islip

I'm appalled how glib you are to condemn the President for speaking his conscience. I just hope that he didn't just throw away the election. He's just given the religious right a big bat to beat him with.

May. 10 2012 11:41 AM

I don't think this changes the election, though I am curious how it will play in Ohio. I think it was planned, and I think it had to do with loosening Hollywood purse strings and getting six figure donations to his PAC. I believe the VP mis-step was a roll-out with the old Catholic white guy, followed by members of his administration. That being said it is both moving and should have been done three years ago.

May. 10 2012 11:40 AM
the_hme from Jersey City, NJ

There is enough newspapers and other documentation out there to show that Mitt has changed his mind to worse. I respect Obama's decision to say his opinion evolved or that he changed his mind over time, to what I foresee as a great step in the right direction of living in a more accepting place. Furthermore, previous Presidents have either not done this, or have actually said them not "supporting gay marriage" is not "their real personal feelings". How the heck to you run for office and say that whatever you say/do is really not what you believe? These people are puppets and I hope that Obama stands strong with his beliefs, because for that he will always get genuine votes like our family's.

May. 10 2012 11:36 AM
Alberta from Bloomfield nj

I don't know whether President Obama did this deliberately, but he is modeling for all of those Americans who are afraid to voice their opinions that it is OK to evolve!!!!

May. 10 2012 11:33 AM
John A.

"Marriage is between 2 people and 2 people only."
As the natural origins of children have been demoted through the years it does make marriage (all types) seem a little stranger to me to the point where I'm no longer sure I know why it exists. A two-person LLC corporation sounds less romantic to me than mommy-daddy-baby did. I vote neither for or against GM, I'm currently abstaining - no vote.

May. 10 2012 10:58 AM


May. 10 2012 10:56 AM

This statement by Obama, however politically influenced or tinged, struck me as coming from his actual experience of change on the issue of gay marriage.

But I have no other reason for saying this than that it is so similar to what I myself went through and what I've seen friends going through.

For myself, back in the early to mid-90's, when the idea of gay marriage was being put forth as the right thing to do, I argued vehemently that marriage was a cultural custom, religiously based, which was long understand to be between a man and a woman or women (seldom was it ever between one woman and more than one man) and that civil union as understood in France, where all rights and protections of marriage were granted to those married civilly and religiously, was what was needed.

At the time, there were statistics that in France, more people were joining in union via civil union than with religious marriage ceremonies. But, of course, the main point was full rights and protections for both kinds of union.

But I also knew that my reaction to having same sex *marriages* also stemmed from my idea of marriage, inculcated into me since childhood, and that my reaction was almost purely emotional. There was something "special" about "marriage" that same sex marriage didn't', shouldn't have. When I realized that I began internal discussions with my "self" about why I felt as I did. And gradually, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that the use of the term marriage was important, since rights and protections were systematically and deliberately being removed from same sex couple by rule of law and some strove to make inequality constitutional. And because religious gays deserved to honor their commitment that way.

Now, I almost can't believe it was I, a liberal of the actual left, who made those arguments back in the 90's. I cried with joy for the happiness of gay people getting married, beaming with joy on the steps of, iirc, city hall in San Francisco. I was suffused with gladness for their happiness. They deserved it and I reveled in their achievment of it.

So, I have seen myself evolve, up close and personal, and seen others evolve, from the distance of not being them. But evolve --or just got used to a new idea, new way of thinking-- we did.

I can grant that Obama did this as well.

Now, if we could just ween him from his austerity hang ups, his refusal to realize the economy needs more many more jobs and government can help, and to get to understand Big Banksters are not his friends. Albeit they may be his meal ticket post office....

May. 10 2012 10:56 AM

Why adult human beings involved in any voluntary actions with other adult human beings need the "permission" from a third group of adult human beings in order to be involved in any voluntary actions is beyond me.

May. 10 2012 10:55 AM
The Truth from Becky

HJS - not sure who you think you are but, you don't determine when there is room for debate. Stop trying to make yourself relevant in this forum. Your opinion is less than zero to me.

May. 10 2012 10:51 AM

Jane from New Jersey
and no divorce if you have children either!!!!

May. 10 2012 10:44 AM

@ AndTheErosionStarts from Earth
if you are not old enough to sign a contract, or you only have paws that can't hold a pen, then you can't sign a marriage contract. Marriage is between 2 people and 2 people only. It just doesn't matter what sex they are. What species they are is an entirely differnt thing.

May. 10 2012 10:41 AM

there is no debate.
but im glad that church and state are separate in our great land

May. 10 2012 10:41 AM
Edward from NJ

The civil-unions-for-all approach is the most logical way to avoid the confusion over "marriage" as civil institution vs. religious institution. The problem is that people are willful in their confusion. If a state were to go that route, they would be accused of trying to "destroy" or "invalidate" marriages.

May. 10 2012 10:39 AM
Kent from Hell's Kitchen

I am not naive. I do not believe that any politician as astute as Obama makes decisions without weighing how it will help or hurt his reelection chances.

But earlier this week I decided that I would not attend a professional conference in Raleigh this summer that I have looked forward to because going would be adding my tacit support to NC's anti--civil rights decision.

I am happy to have a positive sign, however small, that powerful figures --be they reluctant like the president, awkward like Biden or eloquent, like Ms. Clinton--in the U.S. are evolving.

May. 10 2012 10:30 AM
KimberlyBK from Soho

The caller linking Obama to police violence against LGBT people is really misplacing his animosity. The President (i.e., the office, not the individual holding it) does not supervise local law enforcement. Where there has been an enforcement nexus, e.g., DOMA, the federal government has been overwhelmingly supportive of LGBT rights, by refusing to enforce the law.

I believe that marriage equality is a core civil rights issue. I put my money where my mouth is, by giving to the HRC and candidates that support equality for all people, regardless of gender identity, orientation, etc. But, it's really frustrating when a significant step is made--not a silver bullet, but significant--and, so many of the reactions are steeped in cynicism and recrimination. We're not there yet, obviously. I think the next step is to move this out of the "states rights" dialogue, which a repeal of DOMA would effectively do. But, please, let's use this as a moment to rally around a common cause, and not deride people who are acting in common interest.

May. 10 2012 10:30 AM
The Truth from Becky

HJS - you can't bait me into any ignorant debate about God sweetie.

May. 10 2012 10:29 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

JG - You are so right - for churches, synagogues, mosques, and the like. You are so wrong to say that the state can be as discriminatory.

May. 10 2012 10:28 AM
AndTheErosionStarts from Earth

illfg: okay, pedophilia marriage.

May. 10 2012 10:28 AM
Kate from Boerum Hill

I wondered if this weeks developments weren't part of a cunning political stratagem.
Joe Biden, plays it as he has been portrayed - speaking off the cuff - comes out (pun intended)
as comfortable with gay marriage.
And then Obama gives his nuanced interview even referencing his daughters, so he doesn't appear too
vehement or certain, he's been forced into it in a way - Oh Joe - there you go again.....

May. 10 2012 10:27 AM
Sandy from Brooklyn

I realize Obama's decision seems politically expedient, and also politically risky. However, it also is an idea whose time as come. It's just the right thing to do to support gay marriage. As a society we aren't going backwards, despite the hopes and dreams of conservatives.

May. 10 2012 10:27 AM
Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

Oh Brian, You're such an idiot... constantly holding everyone responsible for having hindsight in foresight. That reasoning makes "entertaining media" but it really spoils the fun of learning from seeing life's discovery processes at work. Wake up!!

May. 10 2012 10:26 AM

@jgarbuz -

BS. The 'marriage is religious' argument is a canard. Marriage is a state-enforced contract. Divorces are issued by state courts. The "I do", ring sharing, broom jumping, stomp on glass part of the marriage ceremony is theater. The actual wedding takes place when you SIGN THE CONTRACT. And that's the part that should be legal for gays and straights. Please stop the 'civil unions' is just as good as game. That just leads to court cases and the only ones that get anything out of that are the lawyers.

May. 10 2012 10:25 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

I find it funny that this clearly calculated politcal move by Obama seems to be backfiring as too little (going by many of the callers comments).

I keep hearing about how this will motivate young people since they support gay marriage. Support/okay with gay marriage <> passionate about it.

May. 10 2012 10:25 AM

@Tony...glad it moved you...the government validating you is the problem...we need to get big government out of the way.

May. 10 2012 10:24 AM
Peter from brooklyn

I'm confused about how the separation of church and state affects this issue. It seems to me that as far as the government should be concerned, marriage equality would be a question akin to choosing an executor of an estate. Shouldn't the government's only concern be about the legally binding contracts, and not about deciding who is allowed to love each other and, consequently, creating a 2nd class citizenry?

May. 10 2012 10:24 AM
Bobby G from East Village

Ultimately this is about tolerance. New Yorkers can be applauded for their tolerance, but why is it that there is so much intolerance out there in the rest of the country?

May. 10 2012 10:23 AM
RL from Bowery

Jane from NJ is right!

May. 10 2012 10:22 AM

Wow!! New York is more cynical than I thought. Gonna start calling myself an optimist now. YEESH.

May. 10 2012 10:21 AM

If anyone thinks that Biden's comments last week were a gaffe, and they weren't planned for weeks -- you are kidding yourselves! The white house is rolling this out just like every other part of their re-election strategy. Thank god for elections they push politicians to do what we want them to do. Calculated or not, it's a great day.

May. 10 2012 10:21 AM
Gin from New Jersey

It seems the president can't win for losing on this topic, or any other, for that matter.
He wouldn't have endorsed gay marriage yesterday or any day if he hadn't truly intended to. He took a huge political risk, and the GOP will let him know it right up until election day. A press conference would have seemed pretty drastic, in my opinion, the day after the VP made his stance known.
This president can't seem to get credit for ANYTHING he does right.

May. 10 2012 10:21 AM

To the 'Could have done it sooner/Could have been more forceful'-types on the air and on this board:

There hasn't been an instance where, when the question was put in front of the public, the public has voted in favor of it. How much more political courage does this man need to show?

Please give the President props and get ready to back his re-election. If you don't, you'll get Romney and the Party of dough/no.

May. 10 2012 10:20 AM

god is a fairy tale

May. 10 2012 10:19 AM
The Truth from Becky

HJS: Yes, President Obama IS a wise man, God is no man.

May. 10 2012 10:19 AM

to AndTheErosionStarts from Earth.

equal rights for humans does not mean bestiality will be legal. not only is that an illogical leap of faith, it shows ignorance and fear, which leads to hate. grow up.

May. 10 2012 10:17 AM
john from office

Obama is running for president of the entire country. He has to take a cautious position. He supports gay marriage, as he should, early so the issue is out of the way. The real story was the subdued reaction of Mr. Romney, he cannot come out as a radid anti gay nut.

May. 10 2012 10:17 AM
Nick from UWS

I don't think Joe Biden backed him into this at all. I think 'ol Uncle Joe would be the last person on earth who could back Obama into anything.

May. 10 2012 10:15 AM
AndTheErosionStarts from Earth

RE: The caller regarding trans-gendered equality.

This just shows the road we're on. What's next? Bestiality marriage?

May. 10 2012 10:15 AM

I'm with Jeff from UES--American politics simply won't abide anything near the kind of language and reasoning that pro-gay movements would want Obama to advance. His statements are as good as we can expect from a sitting president given the current circumstances, and at the same time they improve those circumstances in a small but important way.

May. 10 2012 10:15 AM
Sheniqua from Harlem

Call me a ciinic, but this change of heart happens when he kicks off his re-election campaign. Can you say shore up your base who has been turned off by your policies over the 1st term?! I can't believe this will be elevated above all the more pressing issues this country faces.

May. 10 2012 10:14 AM

Ask his daughters about ending needless killing of civilians

May. 10 2012 10:14 AM
The Truth from Becky

Wait for it, wait for it.....

May. 10 2012 10:14 AM
Alexa from NYC

Give me a break Brian! He said it! Don't try and negate it by "he practically whispered it!" --it is a major step, and he will pay greatly by lost votes for it. He said it in a perfect way for that format.

May. 10 2012 10:13 AM

he's a wise man, right?

May. 10 2012 10:13 AM
RL from bowery

Brian, you and the first caller have no idea who the president is. He's not about doing "full-throated" anything. He's not trying to be a revolutionary president. He's already done that just by being the first black person elected. He's not about getting the other side rielled up. He is so much more stealth than that. We'll look back later and see all he accomplished. This is a big step. You and the first caller should just be happy and move on. The right still wants to see him as far left, and the left wants to see him too far right. He is neither!

May. 10 2012 10:13 AM
Jenna from UES

Brian you say "Whisper"

Well that whisper touched millions of gay people and their families. Obama is a very intelligent thoughtful president. He knows what he is doing and this is incredible. Please understand the history it is for us.

It was no whisper.

May. 10 2012 10:12 AM
Jane from New Jersey

I believe that marriage should be strictly religious with absolutely no civil rights or privileges.
Civil unions (or whatever label you want to use) should carry all civil rights and privileges.
Problem solved.

May. 10 2012 10:11 AM

gvt has no business in marriage...but we go on bended knee to "give" us something. They had no right in the 1st place to restrict any agreement between to consenting adults. If people want this is be a sign of courage, glug that kool-aid. Obama is a politician...nothing more...nothing.

May. 10 2012 10:11 AM
The Truth from Becky

I believe it is what he says it is, his personal opinion.

May. 10 2012 10:10 AM
Nick from UWS

I think it's one of the greatest, most progressive things a US President has ever said in our history. I think it's what he actually believes in his heart, politics be damned, and he was clearly nervous about saying it in public. But he did. The guy is terrific.

May. 10 2012 10:10 AM
Susan from Chatham, NJ

Hi, I'm a little concerned about the way Obama framed his support. He said that for states where it's legal, there should be no federal law against it. I take that to mean there will be no federal blowback against laws making it illegal in individual states.

May. 10 2012 10:09 AM

obviously ploy to garner support for the left. however this just boiled the election down to a 1 issue vote and helped solidify the right to Romney. The right will hate Obama's position more than Romney's weird religion.

May. 10 2012 10:09 AM
Vuda from Manhattan

I am thinking of the outpouring of love for Maurice Sendak - it wasn't all radical left-wingers. Do those conservatives and Republicans who loved his books feel good that he was never allowed to marry, to have the life he wanted, with his partner of over 50 years?

May. 10 2012 10:09 AM
Gary from New Jersey

The president said. "Gay marriages are equal to straight marriages."


That's history.

This is what happy feels like.

May. 10 2012 10:09 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

I'm glad he's finally taken this stand, of course, but I would have been a lot more impressed if he'd done so a lot sooner.

May. 10 2012 10:09 AM
Tony from UWS


I wept yesterday. At 58 years old, I never thought I'd hear my life be validated by a US president.

May. 10 2012 10:08 AM
Jeff from UES

As someone who has followed Obama's political savvy on gay rights issues since his inauguration, this feels like another diplomatic tactful maneuver. He was ALREADY the best president ever for Gay rights, look at the bipartisan support he garnered to end Don't Ask Don't Tell. Look at his stealth-like handling of DOMA.

He is the leader we voted for.

May. 10 2012 10:04 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I don't think he's "evolved." I just think there is a national consensus growing that civil unions, yes, but "marriage" NO! "Marriage" defines a specific kind of union, between ONE (1) male and ONE (1) female over a certain minimum age. Other kinds of unions may exist, but they cannot fall under the specific rubric of "marriage."

May. 10 2012 10:04 AM

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