In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act that outlaws same-sex marriages at the federal level, even when those marriages are legal in one or more states. The decision received widespread approval among American citizens at the time, with many citing morality and religion as the primary consideration behind their decision. Fast forward almost 15 years later, and a completely different picture emerges.
Most Americans have favored same-sex marriage since mid-2010. A May 6 Gallup poll reveals that 50% of Americans are in favor of same-sex marriages as opposed to 48% who opposes it. Over the last 12 years, 21 states covering 130 million Americans chose some form of marriage equality: 10 have same-sex marriage (CA, CT, DC, IA, MA, MD, NH, NY, VT, WA), 5 have civil union (DE, HI, IL, NJ, RI), and 6 have domestic partnership (CO, ME, NV, NM, OR, WI). In 2012, legislators, courts, and/or citizens will vote whether to add - or ban - same-sex marriage in 18 states (CA, CO, HI, IA, IL, MA, ME, MD, MN, MT, NC, NJ, NH, NM, OH, RI, WA, WV).
This is one of the hot-button issues of the election, so let's hear what the candidates have to say on the matter.
Obama is fundamentally supportive towards the LGBT community, but admits to internal conflicts in
reconciling his social and religious beliefs.
Update: President Obama publicly announced his endorsement of same-sex marriage during the
taping of an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts on May 9, 2012.
had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient. I was
sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that invokes very
powerful traditions and religious belief. But I have to tell you that, over the course of several
years as I talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff
who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising
kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there
fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘Don't Ask Don't Tell’ is gone,
because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage - at a certain point I’ve just
concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same
sex couples should be able to get married.
It's interesting, some of this is also generational. You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends
whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting
around the dinner table and we're talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha,
it wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It
doesn't make sense to them and, frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in
Did you discuss this with Mrs. Obama, the same sex marriage issue? No, no, this is something that,
you know, we’ve talked about over the years and she feels the same way that I do. And that is
that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we
treat other people. We are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered
to put us at odds with the views of others but, when we think about our faith, the thing at root
that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the
Golden Rule; treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
Obama On LGBT
For the gay and lesbian community in this country, I think it's clear
that they feel victimized in fairly powerful ways and they're often hurt by not just certain
teachings of the Catholic Church, but the Christian faith generally. And as a Christian, I'm
constantly wrestling with my faith and my solicitude and regard and concern for gays and
July 2, 2009: President Obama's session with journalists from the Roman Catholic news
Obama on Marriage
“It's a union between a man and a woman. For me as a Christian, it
is a sacred union. God's in the mix…
… Historically, because historically, we have not defined marriage in our constitution. It’s
been a matter of state law that has been our tradition.
August 16, 2008: Obama speaking to
Reverend Rick Warren during the Saddleback Civil Forum in Lake Forest, California
Obama on Civil Unions
“I would’ve supported and continued to support a civil
union that provides all benefits that are available for a legally sanctioned marriage. And it is
then, as I’ve said, up to religious denominations to make a determination as to whether they want
to recognized that as marriage or not…
… But I would also say this, that if I were advising the civil rights movement back in 1961 about
its approach to civil rights, I would have probably said it's less important that we focus on an
anti-miscegenation law than we focus on a voting rights law and a non-discrimination and employment
law and all the legal rights that are conferred by the state.
Now, it's not for me to suggest that you shouldn't be troubled by these issues. I understand that
and I'm sympathetic to it. But my job as president is going to be to make sure that the legal rights
that have consequences on a day to day basis for loving same sex couples all across the country,
that those rights are recognized and enforced by my White House and by my Justice
August 9, 2007: Obama speaking at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation-organized
forum, LOGO Watch Video
Obama on the Persecution of LGBT Youths
Like all of you, I was shocked and saddened
by the deaths of several young people who were bullied and taunted for being gay, and who ultimately
took their own lives. As a parent of two daughters, it breaks my heart. It’s something that just
shouldn’t happen in this country.
We’ve got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage – that it’s some
inevitable part of growing up. It’s not. We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are
safe forall of our kids. And to every young person out there you need to know that if you’re in
trouble, there are caring adults who can help.
I don’t know what it’s like to be picked on for being gay. But I do know what it’s like to
grow up feeling that sometimes you don’t belong. It’s tough. And for a lot of kids, the sense
of being alone or apart – I know can just wear on you. And when you’re teased or bullied, it
can seem like somehow you brought it on yourself – for being different, or for not fitting in with
But what I want to say is this. You are not alone. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t
do anything to deserve being bullied. And there is a whole world waiting for you, filled with
possibilities. There are people out there who love you and care about you just the way you are. And
so, if you ever feel like because of bullying, because of what people are saying, that you’re
getting down on yourself, you’ve got to make sure to reach out to people you trust. Whether it’s
your parents, teachers, folks that you know care about you just the way you are. You’ve got to
reach out to them, don’t feel like you’re in this by yourself.
The other thing you need to know is, things will get better. And more than that, with time you’re
going to see that your differences are a source of pride and a source of strength. You’ll look
back on the struggles you’ve faced with compassion and wisdom. And that’s not just going to
serve you, but it will help you get involved and make this country a better place.
2010: Obama speaking in support of the It Gets Better project for LGBT youths.
Obama Including LGBT Rights As Part of His Foreign Policy Objectives
should deny people their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also no country
should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the
rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.
And no country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs. This week the
United States signed a new Declaration on Women's Participation. Next year we should each announce
the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women
and girls. This is what our commitment to human progress demands.”
September 21, 2011: Obama
addressing the United Nations General Assembly, New York
Obama on DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell)
A decision by the Senate (65-31) to repeal the DADT was met with approval by the White
“Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our
national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their
lives to defend. By ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no longer will our nation be denied the
service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary
performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live
a lie in order to serve the country they love.
As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore
the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever
known. And I join the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as
the overwhelming majority of service members asked by the Pentagon, in knowing that we can
responsibly transition to a new policy while ensuring our military strength and readiness.
I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Senators Lieberman and Collins and the countless others who
have worked so hard to get this done. It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to
recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they
are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve
their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into
December 18, 2010: A statement by Obama
Obama on ‘Defense of Marriage Act’
1996 Defense of Marriage Act
No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to
give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory,
possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a
marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim
arising from such relationship.
Obama believes that the DoMA is unconstitutional, and has directed his administration to stop
defending the Act in court, although they will continue to enforce it until Congress repeals the
“After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has
concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination,
classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of
scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married
same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that
conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such
February 23, 2011: Statement by Attorney-General Eric Holder