Neglected VP Debate Issue: Obama’s Same-Sex Marriage Policy

I watched the Vice-Presidential Debate last night. I think both candidates did quite well.

If you missed it you can watch it online at:

debatehub.c-span.org

One issue that stuck out to me that hasn’t received much commentary in LDS circles that I have seen is the exchange concerning same-sex marriage and rights policies of the respective candidates (probably because everyone is sick of the topic in general).

In his first response to the issue, Biden clearly stated, “We do support making sure that committed couples in a same-sex marriage are guaranteed the same constitutional benefits as it relates to their property rights, their rights of visitation, their rights to insurance, their rights of ownership as heterosexual couples do.” (emphasis mine)

So Biden, either on purpose, or by Freudian slip, refers to “committed couples in a same-sex marriage” as if it were a given. Perhaps he meant “same-sex relationship” but he said “same-sex marriage.”

Then, after Palin had clearly stated that she supports rights for same-sex couples, but not if it means changing the definition of marriage to anything other than between one man and one woman, the moderator asked Biden for a non-nuanced clarification. “Do you support gay marriage?”

Biden responded, “No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that. That is basically the decision to be able to be able to be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it.”

It seems clear to me that, despite the moderator’s exhortation to avoid nuance, Biden’s words were very calculated to be nuanced. Either that or garbled and self-contradictory. On the one hand he says that they do not support redefining marriage from a civil side, but then he continues on to say that the decision of what to call it should be left up to individual faiths. So which is it? Do they think that it should it be defined by the civil government or should it be left up to individual faiths?

If Obama and Biden do not support redefining civil marriage, then how is that not a contradiction of the letter sent from Obama to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club in July, previously discussed on this blog, in which he not only opposes Proposition 8 in California, which would specifically define civil marriage as between one man and one woman, but that he wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which is what protects individual states from having to recognize same-sex marriage contracted in other states.

So which is it? Is the Obama campaign for or against redefining civil marriage to include same-sex couples or not? On a state level or a federal level?

The Issues section of the Obama website is woefully vague. Which section should I read to find his same-sex marriage position? Civil Rights? Nope. Nothing there. Family? Nope. Nada there either.

Let’s try site google to search the site for gay . Results: A number of blog posts, some of which seem to say he is against redefining marriage, a PDF Flyer that discusses his support for “Full Civil Unions” and against a federal marriage amendment, but no definitive, official statements about same-sex marriage.

Let’s try googling the site for marriage . Results: The same PDF Flyer, plus a different one with essentially the same content, more of the same blog posts. No definitive, official statement on same-sex marriage policy.

Why doesn’t Obama have a clear statement on same-sex marriage in an easy to find location on his website? If, as Joe Biden claimed in the debate, they are both against changing the civil definition of marriage, then why isn’t there a clear, easy to find statement?

Their lack of a clear position reinforces the view that McCain and Palin have both tried to pin on Obama by contrast: that he tells different groups contradictory things depending on what they want to hear. He wants the gay and lesbian vote, and he wants to attract moderate Christians, who don’t want to redefine marriage but are attracted to his other policies. So he lets them both believe that he is on their side on the issue of homosexual marriage.

I want a definitive statement. And I think that LDS Members who are concerned about the redefinition of marriage in California and elsewhere should demand a statement before they decide to vote for Obama.

To be fair, it isn’t obvious from the main Issues section of the McCain website where to find a statement on same-sex marriage, but if you poke around a little, there it is under Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life

McCain’s statement is basically that traditional marriage is the ideal and to leave it up to the states to enact constitutional amendments defining marriage according to the will of their own people and not up to the courts.

I would have liked something a bit stronger, but at least it is clear and relatively accessible on the website.

Here is the full transcript of the pertinent portion of the debate:

IFILL: The next round of—pardon me, the next round of questions starts with you, Senator Biden. Do you support, as they do in Alaska, granting same-sex benefits to couples?

BIDEN: Absolutely. Do I support granting same-sex benefits? Absolutely positively. Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.

The fact of the matter is that under the Constitution we should be granted—same-sex couples should be able to have visitation rights in the hospitals, joint ownership of property, life insurance policies, et cetera. That’s only fair.

It’s what the Constitution calls for. And so we do support it. We do support making sure that committed couples in a same-sex marriage are guaranteed the same constitutional benefits as it relates to their property rights, their rights of visitation, their rights to insurance, their rights of ownership as heterosexual couples do.

IFILL: Governor, would you support expanding that beyond Alaska to the rest of the nation?

PALIN: Well, not if it goes closer and closer towards redefining the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman. And unfortunately that’s sometimes where those steps lead.

But I also want to clarify, if there’s any kind of suggestion at all from my answer that I would be anything but tolerant of adults in America choosing their partners, choosing relationships that they deem best for themselves, you know, I am tolerant and I have a very diverse family and group of friends and even within that group you would see some who may not agree with me on this issue, some very dear friends who don’t agree with me on this issue.

But in that tolerance also, no one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties.

But I will tell Americans straight up that I don’t support defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman, and I think through nuances we can go round and round about what that actually means.

But I’m being as straight up with Americans as I can in my non- support for anything but a traditional definition of marriage.

IFILL: Let’s try to avoid nuance, Senator. Do you support gay marriage?

BIDEN: No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that. That is basically the decision to be able to be able to be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it.

The bottom line though is, and I’m glad to hear the governor, I take her at her word, obviously, that she think there should be no civil rights distinction, none whatsoever, between a committed gay couple and a committed heterosexual couple. If that’s the case, we really don’t have a difference.

IFILL: Is that what your said?

PALIN: Your question to him was whether he supported gay marriage and my answer is the same as his and it is that I do not.

IFILL: Wonderful. You agree. On that note, let’s move to foreign policy.

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