Why Miss California is just like President Obama

The beleaguered beauty queen is defending herself and her position on marriage by pointing out that the president agrees with her.

Published May 12, 2009 10:05PM (EDT)

The press conference at which Donald Trump announced that Carrie Prejean will keep her crown as Miss California was largely what you'd expect -- and not in a good way.

But both Trump and Prejean each made one good point when they took the podium: The beauty queen's position on same-sex marriage, which is what started the firestorm of controversy surrounding her, isn't substantively different from President Obama's. He, too, publicly opposes same-sex marriage, favoring civil unions instead.

Conservatives have been having quite a bit of fun with Obama's stance on marriage, gleefully pointing out that Prejean isn't the only one who says the only marriage should be "opposite marriage." This is one reason why LGBT activists aren't happy with Obama's position on the matter -- it makes it much harder to criticize their opponents, who can simply throw the popular president back in their face.

Meanwhile, the White House is still dodging questions about Obama's feelings on the issue. During the daily briefing on Tuesday, ABC News' Jake Tapper asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, "The president opposed same-sex marriage, but he supports giving same-sex couples the same rights as married couples... same rights and benefits. What's your response to critics of this policy who say this is exactly separate but equal?"

Here's the ensuing exchange:

GIBBS: Well, I would point you to any number of times that he was asked this during the campaign and addressed it.

TAPPER: I don't think he was ever asked, "Is this separate but equal?"

GIBBS: No. In fact, it was asked on multiple occasions, and I can pull you something on that. It's the president's belief -- he strongly supports civil unions and supports ensuring that they have access to the rights and benefits such as hospital visitation and things like that that are enjoyed by others.

Tapper was wrong: Obama was asked that question, during an August 2007 forum for the Democratic presidential candidates that was sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group. But just like Gibbs on Tuesday, when he got that question, Obama gave a non-answer.

"Look, when my parents got married in 1960, '61, it would have been illegal for them to be married in a number of states in the South. So obviously this is something that I understand intimately," he said. "But... if I were advising the civil rights movement back in 1961... I would have probably said it's less important than we focus on an anti-miscegenation law than we focus on a voting rights law, a non-discrimination employment law and all the legal rights that are conferred by the state."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Barack Obama Carrie Prejean Gay Marriage War Room