Last night, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams interviewed President Barack Obama and asked him one question, without follow-up, on LGBT issues: "Do gays and lesbians who want to get married have a friend in the White House."
With the exception of the LGBT Pride Month Proclamation that was released this week, this exchange marks the first time the President has specifically and verbally addressed LGBT issues since his inauguration. The verbatim of the President's answer:
"I think gays and lesbians have a friend in the White House because I've consistently committed myself to civil unions, making sure that they have to visit each other in hospitals, that they are able to access benefits, that they have a whole host of legal rights that they currently do not have. I don't think it makes sense for the federal government to get in the business of determining what marriage is. That isn't traditionally the federal government's role."
What did you think of this? The answer is confusing to me because the federal government, via the Defense of Marriage Act, unfortunately is already "determining what marriage is." There are hundreds of benefits administered by the feds, such as IRS filing status, Social Security benefits, Medicaid, etc. that impact married couples. The federal issue gains importance as more and more states enact marriage equality. Perhaps this is Obama's way to begin a soft-focus on DOMA? That would be nice.
Pam Spaulding has a blunt assessment of the response by the former constitutional law professor. "The answer ... is highly qualified to the point of useless and confusing. He believes separate is equal. The President said the decision about marriage equality belongs at the state level (unlike, I suppose, interracial marriage, eh?), so therefore he believes that states should be able to ban gay and lesbian couples from marrying. Do we need a friend like that?"