A distinction with a difference


The White House and President Obama’s re-election campaign had a rather difficult time yesterday explaining exactly what their position is on marriage equality. As the dust settled, a clear answer remained elusive.

But while one could hardly blame Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus for enjoying the Obama’s team’s difficulties on the issue, he pressed his luck a little too much while talking to msnbc’s Andrea Mitchell yesterday afternoon.

For those who can’t watch clips online, the key part of his answer was when Priebus claimed, “Quite frankly, Andrea, the president’s position as it sits today is the same position as Mitt Romney, because isn’t the president saying that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman?”

At a distance, this might seem credible – neither Obama nor Romney have endorsed same-sex marriage. But all the relevant details make an enormous difference.

Romney signed the National Organization for Marriage’s right-wing pledge, committing Romney to supporting an anti-gay amendment to the U.S. Constitution, nominating federal judges who’ll rule against marriage equality, and defending the Defense of Marriage Act. The Republican has even opposed civil unions.

Obama, on the other hand, supports civil unions and opposes DOMA. He’s also repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, expanded federal benefits for the same-sex partners of executive-branch employees, signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, cleared the way for hospital-visitation rights for same-sex couples, lifted the travel/immigration ban on those with HIV/AIDS, ordered the Federal Housing Authority to no longer consider the sexual orientation of applicants on loans, expanded the Census to include the number of people who report being in a same-sex relationship, and directed U.S. agencies abroad to ensure our humanitarian and diplomatic efforts “promote and protect” the rights of gays and lesbians.

As of yesterday, it appears this record isn’t enough for some “leading gay and progressive donors,” who are, at least for now, refusing to support the president’s re-election campaign because they feel Obama hasn’t gone far enough. But for Priebus, on the other side of the aisle, to draw some parallel between Obama and Romney is deeply foolish.

Romney is running well to the right of John McCain and George W. Bush on gay rights; Obama has done more to advance gay rights than every other American president combined, accomplishing more in one term than many even thought possible.

There’s simply no comparison.