Obama Endorses Marriage Equality…But Not for All

President Barack Obama signs the certification of the repeal of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy in 2011. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/5965366074/sizes/m/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Flickr/White House</a>

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On Wednesday afternoon, President Barack Obama finally evolved into a supporter of same-sex marriage—but only for those Americans who live in states where gay marriage is legal:

“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told Roberts, in an interview to appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday. Excerpts of the interview will air tonight on ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer.”

The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own. But he said he’s confident that more Americans will grow comfortable with gays and lesbians getting married, citing his own daughters’ comfort with the concept.

A president endorsing, even as a “personal position,” marriage equality for gays and lesbians is, as Vice President Joe Biden once said, a big fucking deal. But Obama has endorsed marriage equality federalism—not the notion that marriage for gays and lesbians is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution that can never be taken away. Obama has adopted the same position that Vice President Dick Cheney did in 2004, when Cheney said he believed in marriage equality but that the states should be allowed to decide by a show of hands, as North Carolina did Tuesday, whether gays and lesbians have the same rights as everyone else. 

Cheney served in an administration that was extremely hostile to gay rights. With the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the administration’s refusal to defend in court the federal ban on same-sex marriage, and Wednesday’s endorsement of same-sex marriage federalism, Obama is the most pro-LGBT rights president in US history. Nevertheless, the position he articulated today accepts the legitimacy of states like North Carolina subjecting the rights of gays and lesbians to a popular vote.

In other words, Obama has left room for more evolution. 

UPDATE: After Obama’s announcement, Mother Jones‘ David Corn spoke with an administration source and asked whether the president recognized gay marriage as a right. The official replied, “He has always said that it is a state issue, and he’s not suggesting changing that. He did not support the North Carolina amendment, but he’s not saying he will bring up a piece of federal legislation on gay marriage. This is how he feels himself about the issue, and he leaves it to the states.”

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

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