President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he hadn’t always been in favor of gay marriage, contrary to former White House adviser David Axelrod’s tale of his faux-evolution on the issue.
In an interview with Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith, Obama was asked why he felt the need to be “bullshitting” his position on gay marriage during his first presidential campaign, as Axelrod described in his new book “Believer: My Forty Years In Politics.”
“I think David is mixing up my personal feelings with my position on the issue,” Obama told Buzzfeed. “I always felt that same-sex couples should be able to enjoy the same rights, legally, as anybody else, and so it was frustrating to me not to, I think, be able to square that with what were a whole bunch of religious sensitivities out there.”
Axelrod wrote that the then-senator was in favor of gay marriage and had to be persuaded to soften his position for political reasons.
“Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as [Obama] 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,’” Axelrod wrote, as quoted by Time.
Obama disputed that he had always been in favor of gay marriage in his interview with Buzzfeed, drawing a distinction between the rights he personally felt gay couples were entitled to and what he saw as the fair political approach to the issue.
“I think the notion that somehow I was always in favor of [gay] marriage per se isn’t quite accurate,” the President said.
He explained that he had always seen civil unions as a “sufficient way of squaring the circle” between religious sensitivities and gay couples’ rights. Obama said he then came to fully support gay marriage once he understood “the pain and the sense of stigma” that his friends who were gay felt about civil unions.