Wednesday, April 16, 2014

QUEER QUOTE: New Yorker Reveals Why Obama Endorsed Marriage Equality In May 2012

The New Yorker has an interesting blog post up about Jo Becker' new book, Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality which is a behind-the-scenes account of the fight for marriage equality in California from 2009-2013 by the superlawyer team of Ted Olson and David Boies.

There are some interesting quotes from principal players like Michelle Obama, Barack Obama and Joe Biden. In fact, more is reveealed about the role that Ken Mehlman, Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign manager, played in crafting the president's words when Barack Obama endorsed marriage equality in may 2012. This excerpt is today's Queer Quote:
Becker makes it clear that both Obama and his team were deeply conflicted about whether he should announce his support for gay marriage before the 2012 election, to the point where its unresolved, internal debate had resulted in a kind of paralysis. “His political advisers were worried that his endorsement could splinter the coalition needed to win a second term,” Becker writes. In the excerpt, Chad Griffin, the head of a group fighting Prop. 8, recounts a conversation that he had with First Lady Michelle Obama, during the summer of 2011: “Her message, he told his team, was clear: ‘Hang in there with us, and we’ll be with you after the election.’” 
Even though Axelrod says that Obama “has never been comfortable” opposing same-sex marriage, it was not until Biden made some unscripted remarks in support of gay marriage on “Meet the Press,” in early May, 2012, that the President decided that he could no longer stay quiet, no longer occupy a permanent middle ground. His perpetual state of evolution on the issue was an untenable construct that he had maintained perhaps longer than was politically prudent. Biden’s surprise TV remarks were inspired by an emotional question-and-answer exchange that Biden had at an event in Los Angeles, at the home of a gay couple with two children, several days before the interview. Afterward, according to Becker, Valerie Jarrett was furious—even though she supported the President’s new position—and accused Biden of being disloyal for upstaging the President. 
But for Michelle Obama, Becker writes, the whole Biden incident was a “blessing in disguise”: she recounts to aides that she told her husband, “Enjoy the day,” just before his interview with Roberts. “You are free.” 
The President didn’t see it exactly that way, and was careful to couch his views in personal terms—as he has been advised to do by none other than Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee Chairman and President George W. Bush’s political director, who was also working on the Prop. 8 case after having come out as gay. Obama ended up giving what Becker calls a “carefully calibrated and incremental endorsement,” saying in the interview: “I continue to believe that this is an issue that is going to be worked out at the local level, because historically this has not been a federal issue, what’s recognized as a marriage.” While the President’s statement proved hugely beneficial to the marriage-equality movement generally, his caveat ended up being a central element in the brief filed by the supporters of Prop. 8: their point was that even the President of the United States believed that people of good will could feel differently about same-sex marriage—that is, that it was not a simple matter of anti-gay discrimination—and that it was a state question, rather than a federal one.
The piece notes that when the President endorsed marriage equality back in May 2012 there were only 6 states where marriage equality was legal at the time and now there are 17 with 5 states with marriage equality bans that have been struck down by federal judges on hold bending appeals.

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