“It might not be pretty, but it’s the right thing to do”

Here’s more good Sunday reading. From The Daily Beast:

*

Inside Obama’s Gay Marriage Decision

President Obama was in the Oval Office, poring over a stack of legal memos.

It was several days before the announcement that the administration would no longer vouch for part of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the former constitutional law professor was reviewing the arguments before the Justice Department for an upcoming Massachusetts case.

With top staffers more concerned with the political impact of halting prosecutions under the marriage law—and whether it would complicate negotiations with Republicans about avoiding a government shutdown—Obama summoned his senior advisers to a meeting. It might not be pretty, he told them, “but it’s the right thing to do.”  

The administration’s decision to effectively rule part of the law banning same-sex marriage unconstitutional caught Washington off guard. Even gay-advocacy groups that work closely with the White House didn’t get more than an hour’s notice of a change that many had been pushing for over the last year-and-a-half.

The DOMA decision was the latest in a series of administration moves on the politically sensitive issue. Last spring, Obama ordered hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples. In December, the administration devoted significant time to pushing for the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which barred gays from serving openly. Administration officials also point to Obama’s decision to host the first-ever gay-pride event at the White House last fall.

This sequence of changes cannot be by accident, but represent a calculated assessment that standing up for gay rights is no longer as toxic as it might have been in 2004, when George W. Bush ran for reelection by pushing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. In fact, the Republican response to Obama’s DOMA bombshell was strikingly muted.

Mike Huckabee, an evangelical Christian, said only that it was “very disappointing.” Newt Gingrich criticized the move only by implication, arguing that if President Sarah Palin had tried to invalidate the abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade, The New York Times would call for her impeachment. Speaker John Boehner, who originally called Obama’s decision “outrageous,” waited more than a week before announcing that a group of congressional leaders would discuss how to handle the law’s enforcement.

“The wedge has lost its edge,” says Mark McKinnon, a former Bush adviser who is also a contributor to The Daily Beast. New polling from the Pew Research Center shows that support for hot-button gay issues like marriage rights are now at an all-time high of 45 percent of the country, up 10 points over the last two years.  

Publicly, the White House says gay issues have always been a top priority. “From day one, the president has made clear his decision on fairness and justice and equality for all Americans, including those who are gay,” says senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. “On these issues he hasn’t wavered one bit.”

Another official says that Obama has taken a heightened personal interest in matters important to the gay community as pressure has eased over more urgent matters like the economic recovery and terrorism.  

For the most part, gay advocates have been pleased with the administration. That’s a major shift from a year ago, when LGBT issues weren’t getting the attention some advocacy wanted. “We felt disrespected last year,” said a spokesman for one group, who requested anonymity to criticize administration officials. “But over time, they’ve come to appreciate the compelling arguments we have.”  

Since last fall, leaders of several groups have seen their influence grow. A coalition that usually includes the Human Rights Campaign, the Center for American Progress and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network was generally granted monthly meetings early in the administration. But last summer, after top leaders registered their displeasure with Obama for failing to pursue the promises he made during the campaign, the monthly meetings turned into weekly ones. Joe Solmonese, the president of HRC, says that’s a big deal, especially considering he wasn’t invited to the Bush White House once. “There are lots of people close to the administration we can now count on to take messages to the president,” says Evan Wolfson, president of gay-advocacy group Freedom to Marry.  

A cadre of mid- and high-level officials have personally taken control of issues such as gay marriage and lesser controversies. Some, like Jarrett and chief counsel Bob Bauer, have regular access to the president and review over his schedule. But Obama himself has also been involved at times. In early December, after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell failed as part of a larger defense bill, the prospects for overturning the policy looked grim. In a meeting in the Roosevelt Room with senior staff, several group leaders discussed possible ways to revive the repeal effort, including a stand-alone bill.

It came as a surprise when Obama walked into the room, especially when he sat down and reassured the group. It’s always darkest before dawn, he told them. “This remains one of my highest priorities,” the president said, according to two people in the room. “We’re going to get it done.” Two weeks later Congress approved the measure.  

Still, the gay community has a long list of demands for the White House—starting with offering benefits to the children of gay federal employees. But the crown jewel is still the federal endorsement of gay marriage, which remains an issue decided solely by the states. Obama’s reticence on the issue isn’t the only obstacle. The federal law that delegates marriage decisions to the states would have to be changed by Congress or the Supreme Court. But the president taking a public stance in favor of same-sex marriage would have an undeniable impact.  

Senior officials won’t talk on the record about Obama’s process of “grappling,” as Press Secretary Jay Carney called it last month, with the idea of allowing gay people to marry. But to push Obama to change his mind, gay advocacy groups have been strategizing how to get to convince him that it is politically safe to commit himself.  

A potential ally in that pursuit: Jeremy Bernard  who was recently appointed White House social secretary, and who is openly gay. The job involves managing the residence of the mansion and guarantees considerable face time that’s both informal and off-the-record with the first family. “Not to put the weight of the world on his shoulders,” says one group leader, “but don’t underestimate the level of candid and personal conversations he’ll have with the president.”

94 thoughts on ““It might not be pretty, but it’s the right thing to do”

  1. POTUS is a very smart man.

    He stops defending DOMA in court and that forces the House Weeper Boner to defend it and be in contempt of POTUS.

    Very well played!

  2. Yeah what was that about “Judge not, lest ye be judged” and “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”?

  3. I still contend that President Obama is presenting himself as a public example for those who themselves wrestle with the issue privately. Ballot measures failed in California and Maine afterall, so there is a portion of folks who say one thing publicly when polled but in the privacy of the voting booth with only them and their God to know how they vote – vote differently.

    He wants to be the example to come around to the idea slowly but surely, to show he wrestles with the idea but came out on the right side, and they can too.

    If he was a complete supporter of same-sex marriage he’d be seen as a typical liberal and his opinion wouldn’t matter as much. But we’ve seen Republicans defend their stance on the issue by pointing out that they essentially agree with President Obama.

    Maybe I’m just being naive and he really is struggling – but I can’t believe that he really could believe it would somehow hurt or delegitimize his marriage in any way, or cheapen marriage as an institution. I don’t know how one could know somebody in a committed gay relationship and still hold out that gay marriage should be illegal. And President Obama knows more than a few.

    Considering Malia and Sasha are too young for a White House wedding, I’m still hoping for one still during the Obama Administration – a same sex wedding to send the ultimate message.

    Given it’s still politically tough, and he really doesn’t need to be attacked by the church in 2012(especially when Romney being the GOP nominee could lead to interesting problems for the evangelicals), I think this was to send the message to the pressure/activist groups that this will be done in his second term. I mean if the Administration doesn’t believe it’s constitutional, but it needs to be changed through congress – the message sent is win the House back.

  4. GOProud and Log Cabin Republicans were trying to use this as a wedge issue – blame the Obama Administration for defending the law. Now the GOP Congress will have to. Of course these groups and some on the dem side will still look to blame the Obama Administration, but they’ll be so transparent – just like when they kept blaming Obama and Dems for DADT failing when the Dems supplied 59 votes in the Senate and it passed the Dem majority House.

  5. To be honest, i think he’s beyond wrestling with this issue. Maybe it’ll take another year or two for him to fully support gay marriage, but my gut feeling is that he’s there.

  6. I don’t think he ever really wrestled with it – at last not to the extent he is showing publicly. I can’t see how somebody born from an inter-racial marriage, which was once illegal, could possibly be for blocking others from getting married.

    It’s just that there is a lot of folks really on the fence about it – struggling with it and having PBO personally seen as struggling with it gives these folks space and keeps it from being a Dem vs GOP issue, where these folks might be pushed into the GOP camp based on the issue.

  7. Was she called on the vote after making this claim?

    Of course her line would be “If we get everything we want, there will be no shutdown – and since we want to get everything we’re demanding it would of course also mean we don’t want a shutdown”.

  8. It’s amazing that these people think of themselves as christians and follow Jesus Christ. It’s as though they’ve never read or understood the New Testament.

  9. Yea, you’re probably right. I think by the end of his presidency, gays will have complete equality in this country. It won’t stop many of them to complain against PBO, but that’s a given.

  10. “Beyond wrestling”, me too, bwd,

    I’m gay and I ALWAYS thought that the president basically was coming from a separation of church and state perspective: everybody, straight and gay, gets a “civil” license conferring all the benefits. It’s up to the couples to decide whether or not they want a religious ceremony.

  11. I’ll say. The only way many gays would praise the president is if he had come up with the concept that gays should have the right to marry.

    Lots of ugly comments follow the article. I think a lot of them were repugs who just hate Obama in general.

    I want to brag about myself. All of my life I have been afraid to argue with people. Then I started commenting on sites such as BWD.

    Yesterday I started commenting on Think Progress. I stood up for the president on women’s issues, and man, when I woke up this morning I had about ten nasty responses. But, rather than let them chase me off, I answered everyone of them with facts. I feel really good. I hope it is okay to say that.

  12. What a great read. I will say I have never had a problem with civil unions, but at first I did with “marriage” and it was more a religious thing. I now believe in equality for all. I can’t stand the way the so called religious right are so anti equality for all. Someone is never good enough to be equal to the almighty white male.

  13. I posed this question in the previous thread but at the end, so hope y’all don’t mind if I ask it again.

    What is the status of the Republican’s fight against ACA? Have they dropped repeal and replace in favor of waiting for the Supreme Corp? Are they still rattling the sabre of de-funding it? Or have they moved on entirely?

  14. From what I read, Republicans are taking healthcare funding while rallying against it… just like the stimulus.

    And if I read correctly, Vinson has issued a stay on his ruling and is waiting for the Obama administration to file a counter suit, or something to that extent.

  15. I believe they were largely blocked from defunding it, however they’re still battling it out in the budget. Bachmann basically admitted defeat though, saying that the Dems locked it in as mandatory spending, and that cannot be defunded but can only be changed by legislation which would need to be passed by the House, Senate and then not get vetoed by the President. So they’re now using it as a rallying cry to win the White House and Senate if the teabaggers really want it repealed.

    Crazy thing is that teabaggers might have cost the GOP the senate as Lowden, Castle, Norton could have won Nv, Delaware and Colorado and Washington was pretty damn close.

    It looks like there will be a supreme court showdown – given the political nature of the courts all bets are off. However the longer it is enacted the better the odds I have to believe as it gets more and more entrenched and intertwined into the system. SCOTUS will basically come down to Justice Kennedy.

  16. From what I read, Scalia might actually be a swing vote, seeing as the healthcare law benefits the health insurance lobby and Scalia is heavily influenced by the health insurance lobby.

    But as you stated, all bets are off.

  17. On a side, Kagan has yet to be replaced as Solicitor General. Neal Katyal is acting in that role, but has never been nominated or confirmed into it.

    Is this the long term fix because the politics of HCR would become a huge confirmation issue with the next SG? Will Mr. Katyal be the SG arguing the government’s case on HCR?

  18. Not when you have Republicans, namely Rick Scott of Florida, taking healthcare funding for their states.

    It’s a dog and pony show for the small Tea Party base, that’s what it comes down to.

  19. I’m probably reading way too much into it, but Orrin Hatch trying to get Justice Kagan to recuse herself gives me some hope that he sees the court splitting in favor of the constitutionality of HCR and wants to delegitimize Kagan to have a tie vote, or at least keep it a political hot button issue.

  20. And it certainly is true that the health insurance lobby has a very veted interest in seeing the mandate stay. It seems unlikely that the whole piece of legislation would be thrown out – just the mandate and if that happened it would have a disasterous effect on the insurance industry as the mandate is in place to mitigate the extra costs that come from no longer being able to ban pre-existing conditions, yearly and lifetime caps etc.

  21. Seeing as I haven’t had time to post on the previous thread, it looks like the unprofessional left is going crazy with President Obama’s re-election.

    They keep on calling him a sellout and calling for him to be primaried, that’s what I’ve been seeing from the Huff and Puff posters.

    Heck, I even left a long positive comment breaking down what POTUS has accomplished and giving each a grade, which garnered praise from the more reasonable posters.

    What I’ve noticed is that these folks are focused more on being ideologically pure than they are about getting things done. They complain about the ACA being a giveaway to health insurance companies, complain about Obama being too Wall Street friendly, complain about Obama not leaving Afghanistan fast enough… they just don’t stop complaining!

    It’s telling how quick they want to forget the last guy in office and how we had to endure his eight long years of pain and misery, yet here they are acting like nothing has changed under President Obama. in 2008, we were in an economic downfall. It’s now 2011, and our economy is recovering. Afghanistan is still a mess, but POTUS looks to begin withdrawal this summer depending on ground conditions.

    And I’ve also noticed how a lot of them want POTUS to get involved in what is going on in Wisconsin, using that 2007 quote about him walking the picket line. They don’t seem to realize how difficult it would be to get POTUS security detail down there, Air Force One and such. Also, it would be projected as POTUS exploiting the situation for his benefit, it would end up being less about the workers and it would be about him. POTUS campaign team OFA is down there helping the protesters, so is Michael Moore, let them handle things and let POTUS focus on bigger issues.

    All of this ties into the PL because they just keep on moving the goal posts with frustration. Instead of focusing on the positive of what he does, they have been consistently negative and they keep parroting Ed Shutlz’s call not to vote for Obama in 2012. They keep on pushing for people like Dennis Kucinich, Alan Grayson, Russ Feingold, Bernie Sanders, all of whom wouldn’t have a prayer at winning a single primary, let alone a general election… but they think that Kucinich’s foolish idea of having a primary will push Obama more to the left and they’re so gung-ho on ideology to realize how foolish they truly sound.

    Thankfully they are a fraction of the voting bloc, but as last November’s midterms showed, their refusal to turn out and vote can have deadly consequences.

  22. Hmmmm…..I tend to think that he’s not really struggling with it because he is a very logical person. The “reasons” to be against gay marriage are not based on logic.

  23. Of course she wasn’t called on. Gregory let her slip by with her lying self. She shouldn’t have been on the show in the first place. She’s a liar and a moron. She’s more dangerous than Palin because she is more articulate (not smarter).

  24. All those left wing heroes you listed….why isn’t anyone demanding that they go down to WI? How is it that Feingold lives in that state and no one is demanding that he go and lead the protests? The hypocrisy and double standard on the left is so…..UGH!!!

  25. Are they even a voting bloc? Seems to me like these are the same people who voted for the far left in the primaries last time if they voted at all, and failed to vote in 2010. These aren’t even voters in my eyes. I personally won’t waste a moment trying to encourage them to vote. I can find a hundred people who will vote for our President for every one of them who vote for ‘other’ candidates on the ballot.

    I’m so not worried about them. Or the self-righteous people who worked on the Obama campaign in ’08 who refuse to work in ’12. I’m sure that OFA has some strategy for volunteer retention that will address these people, but I won’t bother with it in my volunteer recruitment efforts. Don’t have the patience for it. I’ll just refer them to Senator Cantwell’s campaign and be done with them.

    As one seasoned political operative told me, “It’s just noise; ignore it.” And so I will.

    Now if I could just come up with a foolproof way to get these people off the friggin’ phone when they get ramped up on their tirades. They do love to hear themselves talk.

  26. Dorothy – Fabulous! If we all push ourselves out of our comfort zones and do this, the truth will win out! Thank you for all you are doing.

  27. I wouldn’t mind a primary in that it would just make President Obama look more centrist. None of the PL’s dream primary candidates will ever launch though nor do they really want them to, because they’d get utterly embarassed. The unions supplied most of the Halter money – I think they’ve seen what the Republican party is up close and personal in Wisconsin and will not waste money like that again (Imagine if that $10M went of Sestak, or Barrett or Strickland). So where will the funding for this progressive primary challenge come from?

  28. Now, why would John McCain make such a clueless comment?

    Oh, never mind, I think I just answered my own question.

  29. “Thank you for your 2008 service! I hate to interrupt you, but you’ll understand that I have 30 more calls I have to make before leaving. ‘Bye.” 😉

  30. They would execute Jesus wre he to come back in a heartbeat. Socialist commie bastard who hangs out with undesirables, women of questionable morals etc

  31. Go Girl!!!!:) Though having posted on that sight, unless you started arguing with some troll, pretty much everyone there would agree with your “sticking up for women stance.” Fun, huh??!!!

  32. I think they know the writing is on the wall. It’s not going anywhere. At this point, I think I read that they just don’t want to fund it. Morons.

  33. Her vote against the compromise was based on the failue to include defunding Planned Parenthood. She would prefer for everyone to suffer in her crusade against abortion.

  34. Would that that worked. Alas, short of hanging up on them, which would be bad, interrupting them doesn’t faze them in the least. They don’t care how much work needs to be done either. Like I said, they love to hear themselves talk (yell even).

  35. Thanks to all of you. I approached it with
    dread, but discovered it is not so awful to
    argue the issues.
    Actually, without the information gained on
    this and other sites, I would never have
    thought about doing it.

  36. Temp, excellent point. Of course, their favs don’t have to go because they are
    true progressives.

  37. This is indeed interesting. Throwing her writers
    out with the bath waters. That woman is rather vile in my mind.

  38. They sound like the telemarketers/pollsters I get. It takes at least 4 polite ‘I’m not interested/I can’t afford its’ to get them off the phone.

  39. Wouldn’t it be funny if the ‘free’ writers (and their supporters) ALL took her at her word and she quickly noticed a difference? That would appeal to my funny bone! Of course she is probably right – ‘no one will notice’. Such arrogance on her part towards people’s hard work!

  40. You go girl

    We all need to hear these type of stories, it gives us courage and inspiration.

    Remember we are not necessarily going to change the mind of the angry critic, but we will probably change the mind of several folks who read the nasty rant and your calm, factual rebuttal.

  41. Just finishing my rounds making unprofessional left heads pop on Huff and Puff… it’s amazing how childlike they act, especially the ones who claim to be “the base.”

    I’m glad President Obama doesn’t listen to them, all they do is complain and act like the end of the world is near because Obama didn’t give them their pony wrapped with a nice ribbon.

    I posted fact after fact, but they refuse to listen… they even resort to the same namecalling tactics of the right wing.

    I’ve got a feeling a lot of it has to do with endless watching of Ed Shultz, Keith Olbermann, and the other professional ranters of the unprofessional left.

    I did say to them, if they don’t plan to vote for Obama next year, that the Obama Nation will find someone to vote in their place and then some… these folks will be eating crow just like Republicans will be.

    But I’m willing to bet when push comes to shove, these unprofessional left ranters will end up pulling the lever for Obama, behind closed doors.

  42. The people defending Arianna are not progressives. They are fauxgressives, i.e., anti-Obama Republican supporters who troll liberal sites with the purpose of undermining President Obama and other Democrats.

  43. Perhaps, but history has shown us that the primaried President’s party always loses. I’m not interested in having a Republican President in 2012.

  44. I don’t think The President is worried politically about his decision to support gay marriage I believe it is a religious/spiritual concern that has him in a quandry. Some pastors take a biblical view of the matter and teach their congregations from that perspective. It makes it difficult to change ones mind.
    V.P.

  45. I agree. I’m sure many of the anti-PBO commenters at huffpo are trolls, as well.

    I went to a different site after the sale and some “beloved” regulars were defending her.

  46. One of the most endearing qualities of President Obama is his authenticity. In my opinion, everytime he’s talked about it, it was totally genuine.

    The way he has talked about it in the last year, it seems to me his head and his heart are “there” now. It’s the religious factor that he’s still not totally comfortable with. But given his profound respect of every human being, given his profound sense of justice and fairness, it won’t be long before he accepts to distance himself from what his religion dictates and go where his head and his heart are telling him he should go.

  47. I absolutely agree with you Hopefruit.. I believe that to be true also of dkos.

  48. I no longer go to huff & puff. I doubt if just me will make any difference, put if more join. There might be a drop.

  49. I think it has been shown that many of the posters on HP are pretenders. They are not progressives at all, but paid posters, either by HP itself or various RW groups.
    I ignore HP anymore. AH is a turncoat opportunist, and I refuse to add any clicks to her fortune. There is no “news” there that cannot be obstained elsewhere.

  50. Somewhat different subject: Did anyone watch Undercover Boss? Timely, for sure!!!!!!! I asked my husband to watch and he did. No comments have been made……just hope he heard something that penetrated and that he realized how timely it was.

  51. No, he’s “just a Republican” and I know he doesn’t like unions…..would probably say that unions have done some good things over the years, but overall, he is very opposed to unions and public workers…..says it’s almost impossible to get rid of public workers if they’re not doing their job. Never mind, that I was in education for almost 30 yrs. And yes, when I taught in northern OH I was active in our association and we went on strike one year. Out for about 2 wks. That was very hard for him, but he “sort of” supported me. His dislike for unions has grown over the years and he puts the blame on unions for corporations shipping jobs overseas–they wanted more and more and more so corporations could not longer be profitable here.

  52. As long as the ‘shareholders are the kings’ is the main theme, the corporates will use that excuse to ship the jobs where the slave labor exists, never mind the small shareholders will never get to see those ‘benefits’. The whole corporate & banking laws have to be rewritten to ensure even a modicum of social responsibility.

  53. Consumers bear responsibility as well. When their only factor is the cheapest price, you can’t blame the corporation for cutting all expenses in order to be able to be the lowest price on the market.

  54. I knew about the false letters to the editor, but didn’t know about the fake calls.

    God, will it be ever possible to clean up the media ?

  55. Well, the corporates move the jobs under the guise of cheap labor and who gets the benefit of all those ‘cost savings’ ? The CEO’s and COO’s. Neither the ‘shareholder’ nor the consumer gets to see those benefits.

  56. Not surprising to me at all. And people should understand that there are lots of paid Internet trolls as well.

  57. There is so much irony in the idea that Fox is concerned about its credibility. What credibility? And how come they never worried about this when their crazy man had better ratings? This is just so ripe for parody.

  58. Rumors have Huckabee negotiating for a monday to friday slot. I wonder if he runs to appease Fox and if he loses then they’ll have the Beck slot waiting for him. His big reason for not running now is that he likes the money, but if Fox promises more if he loses he could jump at it. I also think Fox likes the idea of having top GOP presidential candidates on it’s roster. With Gingrich, Santorum also-ran finge candidates and Palin fizzling out they need Huck to run.

  59. They are mostly former John Edward supporters, FDL, Naderites and Larouches, who were never really supporters of the president. They have to prove themselves right, so they continue to support those who could never win a national election, so they can tell the rest of us “I told you so”.

  60. Hoorah, Dorothy! You make us all proud. I’m no good at debate and I tend to cry when I get really angry but you have inspired me to be more active especially at azcentral where the bile drips and the crazy flourishes. Blessings on you and the house that raised you up! Thanks for sharing this here, Kiddo.

  61. “One of the most endearing qualities of President Obama is his authenticity”

    Comment of the week! Beautiful!

  62. That’s what I thought also. Two of my best friends are a wonderful lesbian couple who were ‘married’ years ago in a beautiful ceremony conducted by a UU minister. They are married, they feel married but they would like civil recognition of their union and their rights protected under the law, as a married couple.

    IMHO, LGBT folks deserve to marry as they see fit and as their hearts and love guide them. They deserve equality and protection in their unions. Ministers, priests etc. may choose to conduct marriage ceremonies or not, as they see fit.

    Lots of UU ministers, Episcopalians and others have been ‘marrying’ gay and lesbian couples for years. That won’t change. What will change is having their marriages legal, official and protected under the law as any other marriage.

    Just saying….

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