Obama Endorses Illinois Marriage Equality Efforts
With the recent successes for marriage equality at the ballot box, advocates are focusing their attention on other states where, pending whatever the Supreme Court may decided in its two same-sex marriage cases, efforts are proceeding to expand the number of states recognizing same-sex marriages. The first state that seems ripe for such an initiative is Illinois, and the President has made clear where he stands on the issue:
WASHINGTON — President Obama went a step further on Saturday in his public views on same-sex couples’ marriage rights than he has done in the past, with a spokesman stating that Obama supports the planned Illinois legislative measure to allow same-sex couples there to marry.
The move is the first time Obama has endorsed a legislative effort to allow same-sex couples to marry. More than that, it is a break from Obama’s past statements about state legislative efforts, in which he as recently as October described as a “conversation” — but declined to state his preferred outcome.
In October, in an MTV interview, Obama said, “[H]istorically, marriages have been defined at the state level. There’s a conversation going on. New York has moved forward with one set of ideas. There are some other states that are still having that debate.”
He did not, however, explicitly state his view on how states should resolve that debate.
When New York was considering its marriage equality bill in 2011 — which was before Obama had announced his personal support for marriage equality — Obama had talked in a similar way about that state’s consideration of the issue.
“[R]ight now I understand there’s a little debate going on here in New York — about whether to join five other states and D.C. in allowing civil marriage for gay couples. … New York is doing exactly what democracies are supposed to do. There’s a debate; there’s deliberation about what it means here in New York to treat people fairly in the eyes of the law,” Obama told attendees at an LGBT-focused campaign fundraiser.
Now, as several state legislatures prepare to consider measures to allow same-sex couples equal marriage rights, Obama has taken the first state that will do so — his home state of Illinois — and announced which side of that “little debate” he would be on if he had a vote there.
“While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect. As he has said, his personal view is that it’s wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so. Were the President still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Given that Illinois state government is completely controlled by the Democrats, it seems rather certain that same-sex marriage will end up becoming law there some time this year. The President’s statement is important, though, because it appears to signal a willingness on the part of the White House to take sides on the issue at the state level. Something that the President wasn’t really willing to do before.