The Slatest

Yes, Obama Was Fibbing About His Opposition to Gay Marriage All Those Years

A great LGBTQ ally, recently.

Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

For most of President Obama’s first term, the White House cleaved to the somewhat unbelievable line that Obama supported civil unions but opposed same-sex marriage. Pretty much everybody familiar with Obama’s political and personal beliefs suspected this was a lie—and now the president’s longtime aide David Axelrod has confirmed those suspicions. Here’s the key passage from Alexrod’s new book, Believer: My Forty Years In Politics:

Gay marriage was a particularly nagging issue. For as long as we had been working together, Obama had felt a tug between his personal views and the politics of gay marriage. … Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a “sacred union.” Having prided himself on forthrightness, though, Obama never felt comfortable with his compromise and, no doubt, compromised position. He routinely stumbled over the question when it came up in debates or interviews. “I’m just not very good at bullshitting,” he said with a sigh after one such awkward exchange.

The Huffington Post has put together a painful compilation of Obama’s gay marriage “bullshitting,” some of which reads as distressingly callous in light of Axelrod’s admission. For most of his first term, Obama simply lied about whether he thought gay people deserve equal rights, and told the truth only once he felt he could withstand any political blowback. It seems the president’s evolution on the topic had less to do with his private views on gay marriage and more to do with his readings of public opinion polls.