Rhode Island Passes Civil Unions, President Obama Ducks on Gay Marriage


Following a win in New York’s Senate last week on same-sex marriage, the Rhode Island Senate took up Civil Unions last night and passed the measure 21 to 16, which Reuters reports the governor is expected to sign. It was the second win on legal partnership in less than a week for equality activists, after a long losing streak which included a surprise failure on marriage in Maryland earlier this year.

And yet, despite hosting a White House Gay Pride reception this week, President Obama is still not on board…totally.

At a press conference yesterday, the President took a “hodgepodge” question about the constitutionality of the War Powers Act, the debt limit ceiling, and marriage as a civil right. Obama responded: “This administration, under my direction, has consistently said we cannot discriminate as a country against people on the basis of sexual orientation. And we have done more in the past two and a half years that I’ve been in here than the previous 43 presidents to uphold that principal.”

Indeed, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (which Obama touted proudly, though it hasn’t gone into effect yet) and yesterday’s news that the administration will stop trying to deport a Venezuelan man married to an American man are signs of real progress on LGBT issues.

But Obama’s dance on marriage is leaving gay activists increasingly wary, and the irony of the nation’s first black president suddenly praising “states’ rights” is not lost on bloggers on the left as well as those as far right as the Washington Times.

For some of the best critical legal thinking on how Obama and his administration are approaching same-sex marriage, check out lawyer journalist Chris Geidner’s piece “Stunted Growth” at Metro Weekly.

Video via Think Progress.