President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks at Ohio State University's spring commencement in the Ohio Stadium, Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Columbus, Ohio. President Obama is the third sitting president to give the commencement speech at Ohio State University. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Obama has been trying to pressure members of the Illinois House of Representatives to vote for the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.
“Were the president still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said last week. “While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect,” he added. “As he has said, his personal view is that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so.”
But where was Obama on this issue when he was actually in the Illinois legislature? It turns out he was in favor. During his first state senate election, in 1996, Obama responded to a questionnaire from the gay newspaper Outlines with this statement: “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
Obama was running to represent Hyde Park, one of the few districts in Illinois that would have embraced gay marriage in the 1990s. As a state senator, he was never required to vote on the issue -- the civil unions bill didn’t come up until 2011, six years after he left the General Assembly. Which was lucky for Obama, because he backtracked on gay marriage as he sought votes for higher offices from less liberal constituencies. In 2004, Senate candidate Obama told the Windy City Times (which had merged with Outlines), “I am a fierce supporter of domestic-partnership and civil-union laws. I am not a supporter of gay marriage.” During the 2008 presidential campaign, he told MTV, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.”
By 2012, Obama was back where he started, endorsing gays’ right to marry. He’s always been in favor of gay marriage -- wherever, and whenever, it’s been safe to do so.