Obama almost approves of same-sex marriage

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama today dropped more hints that he supports granting of marriage licenses to gay and lesbians couples.

“We cannot discriminate against people on the basis of sexual-orientation … [and] we have made sure that is a central principle of this administration, because I think it is a central principle of America,” Obama said when asked if he supported the award of marriage licenses to gays and lesbians. (Obama turns spotlight on Republicans for not being willing to give up ‘sacred cow’ in budget battle)

He cited last Friday’s vote in New York’s assembly to approve same-sex marriages, and then said that “what we’re seeing is profound recognition that gays and lesbians and transgender [people] … have to be treated like every other American, and that principle will win out.”

When pressed by a reporter, he said, “I keep on giving you the same answer until I give you a different one, and that won’t be today.”

In the press conference, the president also equivocated on other issues where he has to bind himself to slices of his base without alienating other slices.

On immigration, for example, he supported workplace verification of potential-employee’s eligibility to work, even as he called for conditional amnesty for younger immigrants. When asked about how captured jihadis should be treated, he carefully said the protection of soldiers was his top priority, but then also pandered to his supporters in the legal sector by saying that captured terrorists have a right to civilian-style due-process.

On marriage, if he fully supports the calls by gay and lesbian advocates for changes in marriage rules, he risks alienating social conservative, working class voters, both black and white. Those alienated voters might not pull the lever for the GOP candidate, but they might not turn out at all on Election Day.

But he also needs gays and lesbians to vote in swing states such as Virginia and North Carolina, and he needs wealthy gays in New York to fund his ambitious plans for television advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts in every state.

In the press conference, the president tried to soften any impact from his repeated refusal to endorse same-sex marriage by saying that “the president can’t dictate precisely how this process moves, but I think we’re moving in a direction of greater equality and I think that’s a good thing.”

Last week, he performed the same verbal maneuvers at a New York $1,250-a-plate fundraiser shorty before he drove to a $100-a-ticket fundraiser.

In repeated state ballots, working-class African-Americans have voted to maintain the long-standing definition of marriage, and have repeatedly rejected calls by fellow Democrats for marriage to be redefined to accept same-sex couples.

Social conservatives say marriage is an institution that best binds parents to each other and their new kids, despite the legality of unilateral divorce, out-of-wedlock births and the widespread view of marriage as the legal recognition of a loving relationship. In contrast, gay advocates and their liberal allies say marriage is about love, and that government should recognize the love of a same-sex couple as equal to that of a man and woman.

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