Carney mum on Obama reaction to Md. marriage bill

Author: Chris Johnson
Publication: Washington Blade
Publication Date: March 14th, 2011

Read the story at The Advocate.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was tight-lipped on Monday about any reaction from President Obama on the recent failure of same-sex marriage legislation to advance in Maryland or whether the president would soon make an announcement in support of marriage equality.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney said he had no new information on the president’s position on marriage since the president’s announcement in December that he’s “wrestling” with the issue.

“Chris, the president’s position on gay marriage is well known,” Carney said. “He addressed this in December at the press conference and I don’t have anything new for you on that.”

Pressed on whether the president is unconcerned about the failure of the marriage bill to advance in Maryland, Carney replied, “I don’t have anything for you on that either.”

Last week, the Maryland House of Delegates by voice vote recommitted to committee a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the Free State after proponents felt that they didn’t have the 71 votes necessary for passage. Backers of the bill said they would make another attempt to bring it to the floor in 2012.

Carney has previously said Obama is “grappling” with the issue of same-sex marriage. In an interview with The Advocate late last year, Obama said he’s “wrestling” with the idea of marriage equality, but isn’t yet in a position to support it.

“Like a lot of people, I’m wrestling with this,” Obama reportedly said. “I’ve wrestled with the fact that marriage traditionally has had a different connotation. But I also have a lot of very close friends who are married gay or lesbian couples.”

But Carney on Monday wouldn’t say whether this struggle would end in the president endorsing marriage rights for gay couples. Asked whether the president would come out in favor of same-sex marriage before efforts start again to legalize gay nuptials in Maryland in 2012, Carney replied, “I don’t have any timing for you on that either.”

In related marriage news on Monday, a total of 31 celebrities, athletes and leaders in the technology field in conjunction with Freedom to Marry sent a letter to President Obama urging him to endorse same-sex marriage in the wake of his decision to defend no longer the Defense of Marriage Act in court. Among the signers are lesbian talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and her spouse Portia; gay singer Rufus Wainwright; straight actress Anne Hathway; gay media mogul David Geffen; and Freedom to Marry executive director Evan Wolfson.

“Mr. President, marriage matters,” the letter states. “In law, in love, in life, marriage says ‘we are family’ in a way that nothing else does. Marriage is the coming together of two lives, marked by a public promise of love and responsibility in front of friends and family. And marriage brings not only public respect and personal significance, but also a safety net of legal protections, rights, and responsibilities for which there is no substitute.”

The letter says that the issue of whether to “end discrimination in marriage” is a problem that America has faced before and that “clarity from the president” is needed to move forward.

“You can offer hope to millions of young gay and lesbian Americans who are facing discrimination,” the letter states. “You can tell them that their future is bright, that they, too, will be able to grow up and marry the person that they love, that the pursuit of happiness truly belongs to all of us.”

Freedom to Marry is asking other supporters of same-sex marriage to sign the letter online. As of Monday afternoon, the letter had more than 10,000 signers.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said in response to the letter that Obama is committed to offering same-sex couples the same rights as married opposite-sex couples.

“The president has long said that gay and lesbian couples should have the same rights and benefits as straight married couples, and his administration has already taken steps towards that end and will continue to do so,” Inouye said.

The partial transcript of the exchange between Carney and the Blade follows:

Washington Blade:  Last week, the Maryland statehouse recommitted a bill legalizing same-sex marriage to committee because proponents didn’t feel like they had enough votes for passage.  The measure is effectively dead for this year even though Democrats have control of the chamber.  By not supporting same-sex marriage, is the President, as head of the Democratic Party, giving cover to Democrats in that chamber who don’t support the bill?

Jay Carney:  Chris, the President’s position on gay marriage is well known. He addressed this in December at the press conference and I don’t have anything new for you on that.

Blade: So is the President not concerned that this measure failed to progress in that chamber?

Carney:  I don’t have anything for you on that either.

Blade: One last question, one last question. The proponents of this bill said they’re going to try again in 2012. You said he’s grappling with the issue of same-sex marriage. The president said he’s wrestling with it.  Is he going to pin down support for marriage equality and make an announcement before next year in time for these efforts –

Carney:  I don’t have any timing for you on that either.