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Obama Haunted By '96 Marriage Stance

January 25, 2011 1:33 pm ET by Kerry Eleveld

The White House may have to change the narrative on marriage equality soon if the media continues questioning President Barack Obama's 1996 pro-gay marriage stance.

In a '96 candidate questionnaire when Obama was running for Illinois State Senate, he stated: "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."

When White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the matter at Monday's briefing, he was in a serious bind.

"I think there's a whole host of issues that I would direct you to the campaign on different questionnaires and I would again reiterate what the president has said recently [about his evolving views] on that issue," Gibbs told Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson.

Pressed by Johnson on whether he disputed the accuracy of the questionnaire, Gibbs channeled his first dodge.

"Again, I'm happy to send you the several thousand clips of which went around during the course of 2008 on a whole host of those issues," he said.

Obama's '96 marriage stance was also referred to in two separate op-eds over the weekend: Dan Savage's Sunday New York Times piece urging the president to address marriage equality in his State of the Union address and my Washington Post op-ed on Friday, which pointed out the inherent flaw in Obama's civil unions stance.

White House aides have never faced serious questioning on the matter of Obama's previous stance and the reasons for his devolution on same-sex marriage - an explanation on which I'm sure they'd rather not deliberate.

But I have spoken with enough mainstream journalists to know that they are already curious about what "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal means for marriage equality and, if the president's '96 positioning becomes part of the mainstream discussion, the White House will have to find a way to redirect this recurring loop in the media before President Obama enters the thick of the 2012 election.