Earlier this week an appearance by White House director of domestic policy Melody Barnes at Boston College's School of Law created something of a controversy. The Huffington Post reported that Barnes "implicitly acknowledged" her support for gay marriage at the event. If true, this would possibly make her the first high-profile administration official to break publicly with Obama's stated belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. An anonymous White House official quickly denied the account, claiming that Barnes didn't discuss "her personal views on marriage equality or other issues." Attendees of the event contacted by HuffPo offered varying impressions of what Barnes actually said: one said she "did state that she supports marriage equality;" others recall her answer being less explicit.
Mother Jones has obtained a transcript of the event and Barnes certainly implied that she and President Obama have a difference of opinion when it comes to gay marriage. Barnes was asked "whether you support equal civil marriage rights for gay and lesbian Americans, and if so, are you speaking or will you speak with President Obama on this civil rights matter?"
Barnes began by describing what the President is doing to promote gay rights—he has, she said, indicated that he wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and "encourage changes in the military." Then she returned to the original subject of the question—marriage equality: "I accept that that is very different than what you're talking about." She proceeded: "With regard to my own views, those are my own views. And I come to my own experience based on what I've learned, based on the relationships I've had with friends and their relationships that I respect, the children that they're raising, and that is something that I support."
Barnes then suggested that she and the president have different views on the issue of gay marriage: "He hasn't articulated a shift in his position there and that is something that at this moment I accept. It is what it is, even as we continue to have a conversation with him about it."
Her answer wasn't as direct as it could have been. But when talking about marriage, she said, "that is something that I support." Perhaps it could be claimed that she was referring only to the relationships of her friends—but her remarks also indicate that she and Obama hold different views on this issue. If Barnes does back gay marriage—which would not be terribly surprising for an Obama official—it's not a big deal. But why was the White House so quick to deny that she'd even discussed her own thoughts on the matter?
The video will be posted on Boston College's website later this afternoon; a full transcript of the exchange is after the jump: