Carney Signals Obama Comments Coming on Marriage Equality, Talks About Maurice Sendak's Death

Posted by Chris Geidner
May 8, 2012 2:30 PM |

On their way to Albany, New York, today, White House press secretary Jay Carney took some more questions about the president and vice president's views regarding the rights of same-sex couples to marry -- as well as the president's visit with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who received significant praise for his work in support of New York's marriage equality law in 2011.

Echoing a line from Monday's press briefing that was highlighted by Metro Weekly, Carney appears to be signaling that comments from the president -- further evolution toward supporting marriage equality or not -- will be forthcoming: "I'm sure it is the case that he will be asked again at some point when he gives interviews or press conferences about this issue, and I'll leave it to him to describe his personal views."

That this is the second day in a row that Carney has gone beyond simply saying that the president has previously commented on the matter gives some indication that the White House is aware the Obama is going to have to address the issue directly before this November's election.

On Monday, Carney had been questioned for most of the on-camera briefing about the comments made by Vice President Joseph Biden on Sunday's Meet the Press that he is "absolutely comfortable" with marriage equality and President Obama's ongoing "evolving" status on his views about marriage equality.

Thumbnail image for carney-062711.pngFrom the transcript of today's off-camera questioning about Air Force One, it's clear the questions are not done yet:

     Q    On the gay marriage issue, Jay, has the intensity of interest in this and the statements from some of the President's supporters led him to consider clarifying his position?  And considering that his views are evolving, does he want to maybe consider his views more thoroughly? 

     MR. CARNEY:  Well, I don't have a readout of any conversations involving the President on that issue.  I can tell you that I'm sure it is the case that he will be asked again at some point when he gives interviews or press conferences about this issue, and I'll leave it to him to describe his personal views. 

I think it's important to note, as I attempted to do yesterday, that what is abundantly clear is this President's firm commitment to the protection of and securing of the same rights and obligations for LGBT citizens as other Americans enjoy.  He has been a strong proponent of LGBT rights, and I think that's demonstrated by his record, which is unparalleled, as President in support of those rights.

     Q    Jay, you said yesterday on this issue in reference to Vice President Biden's remarks and the President's, that the President's personal views obviously were evolving, and you stressed the personal views.  I guess is there maybe a disconnect between his policies and his personal views in terms of maybe his policies are ahead of his personal views on this?

     MR. CARNEY:  No, I don’t think so.  I think the President's absolute commitment to the rights of LGBT citizens demonstrated by the path he took to ensure the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," the opposition that he and his administration have expressed towards DOMA and the fact that he believes it ought to be repealed.  It is also the case that the President and the Attorney General believe that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, which is why the federal government no longer defends Section 3.  And from hate crimes legislation to hospital visitation rights, the list of accomplishments is quite long and I think demonstrates his feelings about, broadly, this issue.

     Q    Do you think he'll talk about it with Cuomo considering he's received a lot of plaudits from the LGBT community?

     MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think -- I don’t know what their conversations will contain.  I know that they'll focus on the issue that the President has come to discuss in upstate New York. I think the President has taken a position on some of these state issues, and I think he did on New York and he has in North Carolina.  And I think the position he takes has -- the positions he has taken are consistent with his belief that it is wrong to take actions that would deny rights to LGBT citizens or rescind rights already provided to LGBT Americans.  And that’s a position that you can fully expect him to maintain.

So, there is today's update on marriage.

At the end of the briefing, Carney did give an unequivocal answer -- relating to the death, reported by The New York Times, of illustrator and author Maurice Sendak, most famous for Where the Wild Things Are. Sendak was out and, as the Guardian notes today, "lived with his partner, Eugene Glynn, a psychoanalyst, for 50 years until Glynn's death in May 2007."

Although Carney had no news about the president's reaction to Sendak's death, he did have his own comments:

     Q    Do you know if the President had any reaction to the death of Maurice Sendak --

     MR. CARNEY:  Oh, I didn’t -- I was just with him and I don’t know if he's aware of it.  I'll ask him.  I know, as any --

     Q    Do you know if his daughters read the book? 

     MR. CARNEY:  I’m sure they have, and I know every parent must be a little bit in mourning today and every child who grew up with that book.  It's a sad day.

[NOTE: This post was updated and expanded at 2:50 p.m.]

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