October 11th, 2009
12:01 PM ET
5 years ago

Dem senators mixed on gay rights issues


WASHINGTON (CNN) – Less than a day after President Obama gave a rousing speech to the nation’s largest gay rights group, two of Obama’s fellow Democrats in the Senate had a mixed reaction on a trio of issues important to gay and lesbian supporters of the Democratic Party.

In a speech before a gathering of the Human Rights Campaign, President Obama reaffirmed his campaign pledge to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gays in the military. But, to the disappointment of some gay rights activists, President Obama failed to specify a timeframe for doing so.

Sunday, on CNN’s State of the Union, Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan both said they supported the president’s plans regarding gays in the military and hate crimes legislation pending in Congress that would protect gays and lesbians.

“The president is putting the priorities in the right place,” Stabenow told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King about Mr. Obama’s support for domestic partnership benefits for all couples, the hate crimes bill, and repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

But both Democrats said they could not support same-sex marriage, an important part of the civil rights agenda for many gays and lesbians.

Casey told King that he does not support efforts to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act , a federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the federal government’s purposes and which also says states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages performed by other states.

Stabenow noted that her state, like some others, has already passed a law prohibiting same-sex marriage.

“So I think for a number of us that becomes a challenge for us in terms of what has happened in terms of voting in our states,” Stabenow told King. The Michigan Democrat did not directly answer King’s query about whether she would vote to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

In his speech Saturday night, the president also urged Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. But Obama does not support same-sex marriage for gays and lesbians. Instead, Mr. Obama has said that he supports civil unions as a separate legal category for gay and lesbian couples.

In his address to the Human Rights Campaign Obama also urged Congress to pass the Domestic Partners Benefit and Obligations Act, a piece of legislation that would provide federal benefits to the same-sex partners of federal civilian employees on the same basis that traditional married couples currently receive.

Related: Obstacles ahead for Obama's gay rights goals

soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. B

    Is this country ever going to have policies that actually cover freedom for all or just a the few ?

    October 11, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  2. Scott, Tucson

    Obama can overturn Clinton's "Don't ask- Don't tell" policy with a mere stroke of a pen but he won't so not to upset the Black community who are anti-Gay as are most Conservatives. If he were to sign in a new bill on Gay rights, it would be during his last few days at the White House say January 2013.

    October 11, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  3. Mike, FL

    They should never be able to get "married" but there is nothing wrong with allowing them the same rights afforded to strait couple in the form of civil union. BUt the gay rights movement seems to be taking the all or nothing approach instead of meeting in the middle. Make those opposed happy by not calling it marriage and make those on the other side happy by giving them the same rights as a normal married couple. Those who want it to be called marriage say that its just a word and it shouldnt matter what its called, but if its just a word then why push so hard for it to be called that ?

    October 11, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  4. joel palmer

    The dems better man up very quickly and starty delivering on the campaign;

    lose don't ask don't tell and dump the defense of marriage act.

    Pass the public option

    Then get us the hell out of the middle east

    Then work on balancing a truly bloated budget

    Then maybe fix education and banking laws

    Screw up, and Obama joins Carter as a nice guy who tried for one term

    October 11, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. joel palmer

    Why is the black community anti gay? they have the same perccentage of "down-lows" as every other ethnic group

    October 11, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. Pat F

    Classic Stabenow – She's SO committed to the cause, but her answer will have to wait until her pollsters and focus groups have weighed in.

    Another loser Michigan Senator like Karl Lenin – I mean Levin. No wonder Michigan is in the toilet with a 15% unemployment rate.

    October 11, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  7. chubby

    I can see it now, a military composed of barney frank and perez types. Time to move to France .

    October 11, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  8. Sheri

    Scott, please don't speak for the Black community. They blamed Prop 8 in California on the black community, that is not what happened. The issue many people of color have is when gays compare their fight with the fight of blacks in this country. Any person who is gay can walk into a place and nobody knows they are gay! Now, if your black it doesn't work like that, does it. I firmly support gay and lesbian couples who want to marry. Have families and they should have equal protection under the law. What I take exception to, is the mantra that their fight is the same as blacks in this country. Till they or anyone else has been brought here in chains, qualify your argument! This is a civil rights issue and in this country it is embarrassing and abhorrent that a group of people are denied equal rights due to their sexual orientation. But please, don't say the fight is the same as blacks in this country. We had to fight for 100's of years. I'm sure people who are Jewish wouldn't take kindly if the fight was compared to what happened in Germany.

    October 11, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  9. Soren

    Get on with it and do what Obama says.
    The existing laws and stupid attitudes makes the US look corny and
    foolish in the rest of the world.

    October 11, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  10. manhandler

    "Don't ask, Don't tell" is one of the most incredibly and pathetically infantile policies ever perpetrated on any group of people. That supposedly intelligent people in the Government can even sit and try to seriously discuss the policy without bursting into laughter is beyond me. Do they not realize how incredibly, incredibly silly it is? Are they all brain dead?

    "OK, if you won't ask me if I'm gay, I won't tell you." WHAT????????
    Do they seriously believe that members of a unit don't realize the personal references of others who are with them 99% of the time?
    OH MY GOD, we're living in cartoon land. The entire world is laughing.

    October 11, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  11. joel palmer

    The mormons own the blame for Prop 8 in california; they are anti-black; anti gay; anti women; anti truth and anti-science.

    They (LDS) also provide way too much cover for polygamists, religious nuts and child molesters

    October 11, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  12. Brad

    The United States loves to say things like "freedom for all" and "equal rights", but until actually does something to prove that's what we're all about... it's worthless rhetoric.

    If we're not standing up to our basic principles, we don't stand for anything at all.

    This should be common sense stuff, but apparently not when its politically inconvenient.

    October 11, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  13. Barney's Right

    Certain memeber of the LGBT community don't get it. They've insulted Blacks and those of us who believe marriage is a religious institution plus they are trying to hand Barack Obama yet one more "hot potato" to make his job more difficult. Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck and the rest of that gang are loving this.

    Two-thirds of Americans, including this poster, support FULL legal and civil rights for ALL committed couples regardless of orientation. Two-thirds say "opposed" when same sex marriage enters the picture. Poll out last week confirms this and is unchanged from a year ago.

    Barney Frank is 100% correct . None, repeat none, of the same sex marriage acts, in a small number of states, change the federal tax and inheritance code one iota. California started with Prop 8 and Maine and Washington State voters have their say in the voting booth next month. Look for both to say no. Then what?

    October 11, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  14. green mountains lawyer

    Actually, chubby, gays are allowed to serve openly in france, and england, austrailia, and canada! Europe is more forward thinking then this country. Hopefully obama will live up to his campaign promises, lord knows 2012 is gonna be hard enough with the republicans campaigning against progress and a return to "traditional values." What is a return to traditional values? Does that mean the republicans want too bring this country back to the W. era circa 2002-2008, 2 wars and a horrible economy, how's that for traditional values.

    October 11, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  15. Sherree from MO

    Weighing in as one more Black person, I don't think I particularly care (or that a lot of other African Americans I know particularly care) if the LGBT movement says their struggle was like ours or not. Its just a matter of perspective. Civil rights are civil rights - and the LGBT community is denied a lot of them. While I know some people say "their struggle isn't like ours," in some ways, it very clearly is. While obviously homosexuals were not brought here in chains, the rights they are being denied are the same ones we were being denied in the civil rights movement –which, in its most recent forms, did not involve slavery. It involved the right to go where we wanted, marry who we wanted, and pursue the careers and lifestyles we wanted. Those are rights they often don't have. And while homosexuals can conceal who they are –why should they have to?

    October 11, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. dave

    it's a shame that in country that stands for freedom and the rights of all individuals that we still have this hypocritical outlook when applied to the gay community..what makes you better than anyone else, that is what I would like to know. The God I believe in loves all of us equally sinner saint black or white gay or not he makes no comparisons.

    October 11, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. Liz W

    How can we tell other countries that we are a country of equality when we deny any citizens basic rights? Why does the idea of a homosexual couple being married scare so many people??? I think that as long as a relationship is loving and consensual, whether people are "straight" or gay, then there should not even be an issue. I'm ashamed to live in a country that only believes in equality for some but not for all. Why did we even bother with the Civil Rights Movements in the 60's if we can't support the same thing now? Gay Rights are civil rights!

    October 11, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  18. FirstShirt

    To the best of my knowledge, no one present in this country has been brought here in chains. Using the struggles of your ancestors and previous generations to make the case that you are the best example of discrimination is a specious argument. Who wants to be the best victim? Apparentlyt some do.

    October 11, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  19. buford rose

    WOW!!! its so nice living in a country that every man and woman is free do, say, act, or marry who they want – OH wait a minute we DON'T live in that kind of country. I thought the constitution gave US all freedom that is equal. Oh yea that is only for STRAIGHT people. The GAY people of America are just worthless humans here to piss off the Straight Man. If we are free then we should all be free. I am so glad that I live in a country where Hitler, Saddam Hussein, communism, and other practices of human discrimination are free to roam about with no just punishment.

    So much for "JUSTICE IS BLIND" It is only blind to those that are dead. This is so not the free country on which the founding fathers created.

    October 11, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  20. Equality for all

    Marriage equality is a civil rights issue. Our laws should not restrict the rights of adults who want to marry another adult, no matter their sexual orientation. Hopefully, in the future, we will look back on this issue the same way we now feel about the Jim Crow segregation laws: they were a black eye in our great Democracy.

    October 11, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  21. John, Brooklyn, New York

    The notion that Senators Stabenow and Casey do or don"t "support" marriage between same-sex couples is, frnakly, condescending and horrifying. Who, in fact, approved THEIR marriages? Popular opinion? Not hardly. Sex offenders, muderers, womanizers, etc. don't ellicite "support" or "approval" by the public....yet, solely by virtue of their gender...ALL of these people are lawfully allowed to marry...as long as they are straight.

    The bottom line...and this applies to Stabenow and Casey as well....is that approval or disapproval of same-sex marriage is based entirely on homophobia and bigotry against gay people...it has nothing to do with how popular we are. Frankly, the find to slimey and sad that the HRC and others would even attempt to go hat-in-hand to seek these bigots' "support".

    October 11, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  22. vette gal

    I really don't understand what all the hoopla is about. The gay community says it wants to be able to be "married" in order to have the same rights as heterosexuals. If that were true, they would accept civil unions which would give them all the same rights as a married couple, i.e. – taxes, insurance, etc.

    Civil unions provide what they want, the same equality and rights as married people. So, what's the problem?

    October 11, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  23. D. Tree

    Its almost as if the Democratic Party is encompassing both liberalism AND modern conservatism.

    Meanwhile the GOP has been relegated to third-party status.

    October 11, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  24. John, Brooklyn, New York

    Sheri is incorrect. The parallels are quite striking. She presnets the argument that gays are not apparent on the surface, yet blacks have no ability to hide their "blackness". She completely fails to acknowledge that, for generations, light skinned blacks were tempted (and often encouraged) to "pass" in order to gain approval from the community. This is remarkably similar to the admonitions that gay youth receive from their loved ones to "butch it up" or "dress more like a girl".

    Further, it is clear that the homophobia expressed within the African American community is more visceral, ugly, and frequently violent.

    And, further, Prop 8 was, in fact, passed on the momentum of the California African Americans' enthusiasm to win the White House and express their homophobia in a single visit to the voting booth.

    October 11, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  25. Vietnam Veteran (DC)

    If all of these liberal politicians to include the President that we will just get rid of this policy and the Military will live in peace and harmony there after are living in a fantasy haze. Not unless you have lived and fought in such small quarters most don't have a clue. As soon as a gay person start flaunting their preference, the tension and unit cohesivness will disappear and sadly violence may follow, be what you want to be however, don't ask, don't tell should remain. Expecting the majority of the military personels from all different back ground to all of a sudden change and be receptive to this, will be easier said than done.

    October 11, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
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