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. We Won Get Over It

    I don't understand why people object to gay and lesbians....just because that is not out life style why do we want to deny it to others.

    After all we don't stop people from being republicans and look at the trouble they cause. We don't stop people from being White Supremist, or belonging to any other disreputable organization why should a life style be banned. AFTER ALL THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICAN THE LAND OF THE FREE.

    And so you are only free if you are a bunch of right wing religious nutso who want everyone to be like them.

    October 11, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  2. Adam

    I think when people compare the discrimination of gays to the discrimination of blacks you have to realize the time that we are in now. Of course gays weren't held in bondage and didn't experience the evil wraths of slavery, but discrimination is discrimination. Relatively speaking, gays are being discriminated against just as blacks were in the 1950's and 60's.

    October 11, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  3. Rosebud

    Privatize marriage! Marriage should be a contractual and private union and not a government institution.

    October 11, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  4. caribbeanreader

    The President has to keep happy the gay community because it is mostly democratic. But Senators have to answer to the citizens in their own state. The truth is that in the abstract, most people support gay "rights" until the details and consecuences show up. Then the conservative streak of America shows up. The democrats won the election of 2008 but still don't have the backbone to implement what they promised in the campaign. Asking for "bipartisanship" is just a way to share the blame if something goes wrong. Republicans know that and won't budge. Republicans may be nasty, but the voters know where they stand and what they will do, contrary to the democrats, who have the backbone of a ripe banana.

    October 11, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  5. Dennis

    I don't believe Obama ever said he was against defense of marriage act or the the don't ask don't tell policy. Everyone just assumed as a liberal he was all for the gay agenda. This president is driven by polls, so I doubt there will be any action to support the gay agenda.

    October 11, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  6. Pam

    Wow...I'm stunned at how some folks are expecting Obama to clean up the mess left by Bush so quickly. I am elated our President is highly intelligent and I too look forward to meaningful changes. But the man just hung his coat and hat in the White House less than a year ago.. There is also the matter of the congress. There are three branches of government folks. The presidency in one of the three.

    October 11, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  7. Bpin

    All BHO wants to do is be everyone's friend. As the nation's highest rock star and celebrity, that feel good high is very important to him. Don't forget, this is a man who bashes the lack of human right's in other countries and then turns around and offers his hand to their leaders. This man just cannot say enough about his proactive approach to human rights while school age kids in his neighboorhood are slaughtered and he don't even address it. Being a rock star and in front of a cheering crowd is this man's legacy to the US Presidency.

    October 11, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  8. Annie, Atlanta

    My concern is when we deny basic civil (and human) rights to some based on prejudices, aren't we all in jeopardy of losing rights along the way based on the next prejudice waiting right around the corner?

    October 11, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  9. Mauiharper

    Let's be fair. If people want marriage to be a religious ceremony and claim that marrying gay couples is against heir faith, marriage should hold no legal benefits. Let the government require that both gay and straight couples register for a civil union if they want the advantages now reserved only for married people. (People previously married can have their status grandfathered.) This would end the discrimination and let church-goers keep their faith and provide civil rights for all. It's a no brainer and I can't figure out why all the brilliant politicians have not thought of this solution.

    October 11, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  10. terry

    Obama has no morals. He will court any group for a vote. I can't wait until two gays hold hands on a far off shore and get put in jail or shot. Our lack of morals won't hold up in other countries were people are lashed with cane sticks because of how they dress. What will you do about our citizens being abused or killed then, spineless commander in chief???

    October 11, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  11. terry

    Obama has no morals. He will court any group for a vote. I can't wait until two gays hold hands on a far off shore and get put in jail or shot. Our lack of morals won't hold up in other countries were people are lashed with cane sticks because of how they dress. What will you do about our citizens being abused or killed then, spineless commander in chief??? Think before you act.

    October 11, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  12. T Mckinley

    For those of you who still want America to believe that our President is a "Muslim," I have news for you:

    Muslims do NOT support gay/lesbian rights!

    October 11, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  13. Dana

    I hope people remember that Obama does not support repealing laws which permit same-sex marriage. Obama was against California's Prop 8 and is against Maine's question 1. Having said that, I really hope he doesn't honestly believe that separate is equal. Rosa Parks got to the same destination in the back of the bus as she did in the front. the problem is that she should never have been forced to sit in the back of the bus in the first place. 10 years from now, people will be looking back on all of the 'no marriage but civil union' rhetoric and equate it to segregation in the south and apartheid in South Africa. Civil Union but no marriage is illogical and only works for those who genuinely feel that they are somehow superior gays, it makes them feel better to keep gays in a 'less than' category. Very sad.

    October 11, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  14. Jay T.

    Why? Have a spine. These are educated people, not the zealots who misinterpret Jesus's message- unless, of course, it is convenient to their own hatreds. Try using the Beatitudes to justify your hatred and fear.

    October 11, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  15. They call me "tater salad"

    Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve!!!!!!!!

    October 11, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  16. Doug

    Where is the support in congress to make having a JOB a CIVIL RIGHT? A job not a boyfriend or a girlfriend!

    October 11, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  17. Enough

    Can't we get past all this gay talk?? Equal rights as civil unions will be supported............marriage is not..................yes, we are for equal rights, but it is NOT the same as marriage. Marriage is between man and woman, husband and wife........period. Civil Unions should have the same rights and they are between partners. Sorry, they will NEVER be the same. Quit trying to redefine marriage and shove it down our throats as the same thing.............it's NOT!

    October 11, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  18. Gays....listen up....

    Obama is AGAINST gay marriage.....he does not see gays as equals despite his rousing, phony speeches.....so there is no hope under Obama....

    October 11, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  19. Doug

    It is interesting when people try to placate gays by throwing a few civil rights their way. Yes, we will not stop until we are afforded the exact same rights as straights. Anything less is a blow to the US Constitution –try reading it. It is very interesting.

    As it stands, America is a hypocrit nation that does not deserve all the respect it demands.

    Furthermore, I am gay and a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, and I can say that by repealing don't ask, we would only be improving our military by ridding it of the truly ignorant bigots that surely would depart out of protest.

    October 11, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  20. allie

    Are we into word games now? Is 'marriage; oerformed by a jusice of the peace or a notary public or a minister ' the same as a civil union? Could one have a 'civil union' with all the rights and privileges that grants as far as government concerns are considered or must it be a 'marriage' of man and woman in the eyes of God? in order to justify legal rights concerning estates/medical concerns/etc.? I am totally confused. What must be made clear is this: Are we a nation of laws and rules for all or a religious nation concerned with religious laws and rules –for all-when it suits our purpose?

    October 11, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  21. Peter

    I find it Ironical, rude and degrading! when people compare Blacks fighting for equal rights and homosexuals. Blacks were discriminated based on the color of their skins not because men were marrying men. Homosexual should fight for their rights but stop comparing moral with immoral courses. Anyone can marry whoever they want eg a goat, sheep. dog, men,empty tuna cans! if it maximizes your happiness but don't force your actions on the majority.

    October 11, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  22. AJ

    These Democrats are spineless hypocrites and the gay people in those states should go after them with intenstiy. It is not okay to be non-discriminatory on some issues and bigoted in others. It's time the gay electorate took a stand and said "you're either with us or against us." We would be better off with republicans than with democrats who take our vote for granted at the same time they dispise us.

    October 11, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  23. JP

    Barney Frank and Perez Hilton types in the military? That would weaken and disgrace the U.S. military. Also, gays have enough 'rights', they don't deserve to ruin the definition of traditional marriage.

    October 11, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  24. Mark

    You can keep marriage, given how unsuccessful it is. 50% divorce rate?! you guys have a done a bang up job protecting it.

    I pay my taxes, I want my rights. equal rights. at the federal level. its as simple as that. and i dont care what you call it.

    October 11, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  25. A Democrat of 51 years who has finally got smart to their foolishness.

    Why should they be mixed up. Isn't their boss the Commander-In-Chief a Homosexual?

    October 11, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
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