The Rachel Maddow Show | May 09, 2012
>>> today was an historic day in civil rights in this country.
>> i've always been adamant that gay and lesbian americans should be treated fairly and equally. and i was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, you know, the word "marriage" was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs , and so forth. at a certain point, i've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that i think same-sex couples should be able to get married.
>> president obama speaking today with robin roberts of abc, making remarks that were both highly anticipated and that nobody was quite sure he was going to say, until he actually said them. there has been no ambiguity about whether or not this administration supports the advancement of gay rights as a matter of policy. but there has been uncertainty about whether the president would ever say what he said today. whether the president would ever say that he personally supports same-sex couples being allowed to get married. in kansas this month, there was a protest outside the state capital , after the republican dominated house there passed something they're calling the religious freedom act. the religious freedom at stake in this act is the freedom to fir somebody because they're gay or kick somebody out of the house, because they're gay. it would mean if your town had an ordinance that said you can't discriminate against gay people , your town could be sued by people who want to discriminate against gay people , asserting that it is their right to do so. it's legislation to overtly advance the right to discriminate against gay people , and to get rid of anything that might shield gay people from discrimination. this thing passed by nearly 3 to 1 in the kansas house . if it passes the senate, my guess is that kansas republican governor sam brownback will sign it with a very, very pious smile on his face. legislation like this is a thing for republicans now. the same sort of bill was introduced in colorado this year by republicans in the legislature there. ultimately, they pulled it, but the folks behind it say that they will bring it back soon. in colorado yesterday, the republican speaker of the house killed 30 different bills last night, all at once. bills covering everything from water infrastructure to something to set the standard for driving while stoned. 30 bills, all of them set to be moved at the end of the legislative session in colorado , all killed in one fell swoop, in order to stop a civil unions bill for same-sex couples in colorado from going to the floor, where there was a threat that it might have passed. so there was almost progress for gay couples in colorado , from third class citizenship, to second class citizenship yesterday, but the republican speaker of the house took a stand and stopped that progress, killing 30 other pieces of legislation in the process. close one. if you follow the issue of gay rights in american public policy , you know that public opinion has been shifting on this subject. support for same-sex marriage rights in polling has been going up and up and up, but public opinions shifting on this issue has not affected most republican politicians. in fact, the most visible republican politicians in this country have become more anti-gay over time .
>> you gave an answer i thought was really interesting in the third debate. bob schieffer asked you if you thought homosexuals were born that way or became that way.
>> and you said you didn't know.
>> right, i don't.
>> so the possibility -- it's a nature/nurture argument. so the possibility exists in your mind that it could be nature?
>> so how can we deny them rights in any way to a civil union that would give them the same economic rights or health rights or other things?
>> well, i -- i -- i don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union , a legal arrangement if that's what a state chooses to do so.
>> that was george w. bush in 2004 saying that he was in favor of civil unions for same-sex couples . 2004 , the last republican president. the current republican nominee for president is against that.
>> i think people have differing views on marriage and i respect people's different views. i'm in favor of traditional marriage , between a man and a woman. and i don't favor civil union or gay marriage .
>> we think of the country as getting less anne-gay over time , but for the top tier of republican politicians, they are getting more anti-gay over time . even mitt romney personally is getting more anti-gay over time . when he ran for the united states senate in 1994 , this is him on the cover of the boston gay magazine, gay newspaper, sorry. when he ran for senate, he famously promised that he would run to the left of ted kennedy on gay rights issue. he said he would make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. now that he's further along in his career and the de facto republican nominee for president, not only is he not trying to mainstream gay and lesbian equality, he is actively working against it. he's promising to fight it. he's pledging to pursue an amendment to the united states constitution to ban marriage rights for same-sex couples . to impose that ban federally, no matter what individual states want. when the romney campaign appointed an openly gay spokesman recently, he was hounded out of the job on the basis of the fact that he was gay.
>> personnel is policy. when governor romney picked somebody who's an active homosexual and puts him in a prominent position, he's sending a shout-out to the lobby.
>> when attacks on that spokesman forced him to quit, mitt romney never said a word to those anti-gay critics. that led even that guy you just saw there, brian fisher , to worry that maybe mitt romney is a wimp on this issue.
>> if mitt romney can be pushed around, intimidated, coerced, coopted by a conservative radio talk show host in middle america , how is he going to stand up to the chinese? how is he going to stand up to putin? how is is he going to stand up to north korea if he can be pushed around by a yokel like me.
>> this past november when former vice president dick cheney was lobbying in maryland for maryland to passage same-sex marriage rights , the current candidate mitt romney campaigning against the gays.
>> we fought hard and prevented massachusetts from becoming the las vegas of gay marriage .
>> when a federal court in california ruled in favor of marriage for same-sex couples on the prop 8 case earlier this year, mitt romney jumped in to make clear he was on the anti- gay side of that. he declared himself a combatant on the war on gay rights . he said, "today unelected judges cast aside the will of the people of california who voted to protect traditional marriage . this decision does not end this fight." see, it's a fight and he's a combatant in that fight against gay rights . even when he's not making public statements and he's just doing something like doling out money, this year's republican nominee has been giving money fighting against gay rights . including groups who say they know how to cure you from being gay. mitt romney 's campaign has been funding those groups. this is what it's like for republican politics. yesterday the republican speaker of the house gave over statutory to a guy who said that aids is a punishment for homosexuality.
>> it's the fastest self-mutating virus known to mankind. every time they just about get a vaccine, it transmutes into something new and they have to start over again. that goes to what god says, you're going to bear on your body the consequences of this homosexual behavior .
>> the consequences of your homosexual behavior . yesterday the republican speaker of the house john boehner invited that guy to use your room, statutory hall, in the u.s. capitol , for some type of publicity stunt. regardless for the public opinion polling on this issue, the elected officials of the republican party in 2012 are more anti-gay than they have been in my lifetime, and they have been anti-gay for a really long time.
>> today i call upon the kopg to promptly pass and to send to the states for ratification an amendment to our constitution, defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and woman, as husband and wife. marriage can not be severed from its cultural, religious, and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society.
>> notice the date there, right? that was president george w. bush , february 2004 , running for re-election, against these advances in gay rights that threaten civilization, that threaten to bring down the nation. in 2004 , that year, the republican party supported ballot initiatives in 11 states banning gay rights . that not only had the effect of materially hurting gay people all over the country, but they also hoped it would drive up turnout of voters motivated by anti-gay prejudice. so come for the chance to hurt your gay neighbor, stay for the re-electing of george w. bush . but at the same time that george w. bush was standing there in the roosevelt room , pledging the power of the presidency and a change to the u.s. constitution to stop these terrifying gay people who were coming to destroy our civilization, the bush administration was also leaking word that personally, george w. bush was actually totally cool with gay people . mr. bush's friends say that the president is quite comfortable with gays. the president's wife, quoted by "the new york times," saying that of course she and the president had gay friends. the white house also apparently leaking a story about mr. bush being not at all offensive towards a former yale classmate that was transgender. the idea was that we were all supposed to be assured that even though the president was trying actively as a politician with his power as president to make gay people 's lives harder in this country, to stop the advancement of gay rights and to roll it back, where he could, we're supposed to feel personally assured by the fact that personally he is all right with gay people . this is a constant in american anti-gay politics. even just in the career of george w. bush . this is from that -- i want to read -- this is from the lewiston idaho morning tribune, from august 1999 , when george w. bush was running for president for the first time. listen to this. " george w. bush , for example, has said he opposes allowing gay couples adopt children. i believe children ought to be adopted in families with a woman and a man who are married, the texas governor said months ago. but after he said that, governor bush told a gay legislator he doesn't mean that personally. texas state represent glen maxie, the state's only openly gay legislator, says that last april, bush talked to him during a visit to the house chamber. he says, glen, i value you as a person and i value you as a human being and i want you to know that what i said publicly about gay people does not pertain to you personally." but to the extent that i can take away your rights and destroy your family, i'm going to do everything in my power to do that. with ronald reagan , it was sort of the same thing. at a time that republicans were all but applauding the deaths of tens of thousands of americans from aids, on the idea that aids was god's punishment for homosexuality, and therefore should be sort of welcomed as it killed lots of americans , in the midst of that environment in the republican party at the time, ronald reagan as president did nothing to stop the aids epidemic and could not bring himself to even say the word "aids" in public until seven years into his presidency, at which point tens of thousands of americans had already been ill killed by aids. but, but, apparently, personally, he was really nice about gay people . do you care? they think you'll care. so president reagan 's daughter publishes a piece in "time" magazine talking about how she watched a movie in the white house with her father when he was president and he explained to her while they were walking the movie that rock hudson was gay, and he said that, quote, in the same tone that he would be telling me about people with different-colored eyes. does that make you feel better or worse about tens of thousands of dead americans and the president not saying a word about it? in the case of the clinton administration , as president, he made lots of gay appointments. we're told he had very pro-gay intentions, which may make you feel great. but in policy, the gay rights legacy of the bill clinton administration is the defense of marriage ask and don't ask, don't tell. awesome. does the president's personal feeling about gay people make that policy legacy any better or worse? not substantively. but the connection between personal beliefs and the wielding of political power is a very, very thin connection on this issue. so when george w. bush writes on page 69 of his memoir, "decision points," when he pats himself on the back for telling vice president dick cheney , that, quote, i could not careless less about the sexual orientation of dick cheney 's daughter, mary. when he pats himself on the back about that, about how personally tolerant he is, that does not make me feel better about president george w. bush 's record, as a campaigner who got re-elected in part about making gay people 's lives more miserable. it does not make me feel better. it also makes me feel more disgusted about that. not everybody feels the same way about this. but personally, i don't much care about a politician's personal beliefs. i care about whether a politician hurts people in their job as a politician. whether you are using your power to hurt people is the relevant thing. not how you feel about it privately while you're doing that. that's always been my belief on it, personally. the flip side to that, as a matter of principle, is what's going on in the barack obama administration. the barack obama administration has been very, very, very pro- gay rights . they have pursued at every level policies to improve the lives of gay americans and to further gay rights . it's not just repealing don't ask, don't tell. it's expanding federal benefits for the same-sex partners of people who work in the executive branch . it's signing the hate crimes act into law. it's clearing the way for hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples . it's lifting the travel and immigration band for people living with hiv. it's ordering the federal housing authority to not can consider the sexual orientation of people who apply for housing loans. it's expanding the census, even, to make sure that people in same-sex relationships get counted. it's directing u.s. agencies who work with foreign countries to ensure that our humanitarian and diplomatic efforts abroad take into accounts the rights of gay and lesbian people in those other countries. it's supporting states that are trying to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples . the administration did not always do that. they didn't, for example, do that before the vote on same-sex marriage rights in new york state. but they do that now. they did that before the vote that was lost yesterday in north carolina . it's taking the huge step of refusing to defend the constitutionality of bill clinton 's gay rights disaster in the defense of marriage act . if you are in favor of gay rights , the barack obama administration has been great on the issue of gay rights . while before today , never saying what the president's personal view is on same-sex couples getting married. we treat presidents like they're celebrities. we are all curious about all of these personal things about them, including who their friends are and what they like in a person, what their prejudices might be. but ultimately, what presidents do is they wield political power . and even before today , that legacy of the first term of the barack obama presidency was already clear. today he added to that. he added icing to that. the cake was already baked. the legacy was already secured by his alasctions as president. by what his administration had done. the legacy was already secured before he took this extra step today. this was something extra. this was something not necessary to secure his legacy here. this was above and beyond . and it is not without risk. and now having said these words publicly that no president has ever said before, now we get to see how this changes the country. democratic congressman