‘Evolving’ attitudes on marriage equality

‘EVOLVING’ ATTITUDES ON MARRIAGE EQUALITY…. President Obama sat down in the Roosevelt Room yesterday to chat with five high-profile bloggers — Crooks & Liars’ John Amato, Eschaton’s Duncan Black, Daily Kos’ Barbara Morrill, AmericaBlog’s Joe Sudbay, and Oliver Willis — and over the course of about an hour, they covered quite a bit ground.

There were several exchanges of note, but I was especially struck by a question from Sudbay about same-sex marriage. For context, I should note that while Obama had expressed at least some support for marriage equality before coming to Washington, his position for years has been to support civil unions, but not to go any further.

It’s why I found his response interesting.

THE PRESIDENT: Joe, I do not intend to make big news sitting here with the five of you, as wonderful as you guys are. (Laughter.) But I’ll say this —

Q: I just want to say, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you this question.

THE PRESIDENT: Of course.

Q: People in our community are really desperate to know.

THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s a fair question to ask. I think that — I am a strong supporter of civil unions. As you say, I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage.

But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine. And I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships. I have staff members who are in committed, monogamous relationships, who are raising children, who are wonderful parents.

And I care about them deeply. And so while I’m not prepared to reverse myself here, sitting in the Roosevelt Room at 3:30 in the afternoon, I think it’s fair to say that it’s something that I think a lot about. That’s probably the best you’ll do out of me today. (Laughter.)

He went on to add, “I think it’s pretty clear where the trendlines are going,” suggesting he sees marriage equality as an inevitability.

Now, I don’t want to read too much into this, and I didn’t see or hear how Obama was communicating this, but reading the transcript leads me to think the president may actually be prepared to move on this, perhaps even before his re-election bid in two years.

Richard Socarides, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay issues, noted after learning of the comments, “Presidents don’t usually think out loud unless they intend to send a signal that they are shifting a position.”

It’s obviously speculative, and we haven’t received any other hints on this, but it’s something to keep an eye on, at a minimum.