Is Obama Having It Both Ways on Gay Marriage?

Conservatives say the president has expressed both support for and opposition to gay marriage.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

Townhall has posted this video juxtaposing what it says are President Obama's conflicting views on gay marriage, variously offered before the Human Rights Campaign's annual dinner last weekend and at Rick Warren's Saddleback Civil Forum last summer.

The video is labeled Obama's 2 Faces: From Saddleback to Brokeback.

My take: There's not necessarily a contradiction here. Here's what Obama said at Saddleback last year:

I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. . . . I'm not someone who promotes same-sex marriage.

And here's what the president told the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group, a few days ago:

You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman.

The question is whether calling gay relationships "just as real and admirable" as straight ones is tantamount to calling for gay marriage. I don't think so.

Explaining his opposition to gay marriage in 2004, Obama said, "I'm a Christian, and so although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.

Can Obama believe that gay relationships are "just as real and admirable" as straight ones without feeling that they deserve church sanction? I think so.

In fact, it appears to be a widely held position in the United States. A new Pew poll finds that nearly 6 in 10 Americans support civil unions, which implies that most see gay relationships as real and admirable. But the same poll found that just 4 in 10 Americans support gay marriage.

The big difference between civil unions and gay marriage is that the latter have religious connotations, the former only legal ones. Most Americans, the Pew survey suggests, support legal sanction for gay couples but not religious sanction. Obama appears to hold the same nuanced position.

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