Unanswered Questions

How Come Robert Gibbs Can’t Say If Obama Supports Separate But Equal?


Does the White House expect us to believe staffers sit around all day not researching what’s going on in the news? That the executive branch prides itself on being ill prepared to address America’s social and civil issues? Because that’s the message Press Secretary Robert Gibbs sent yesterday when, like his boss President Obama, he continued his tour of silence on all things Prop 8.

When ABC News’ Jake Tapper followed up earlier lines of questioning about same-sex marriage by asking Gibbs about the federal lawsuit coming from Ted Olson and David Boies, Gibbs had no answer:

TAPPER: Okay. And just a separate question. Today in California, Ted Olson, former Solicitor General for President Bush, and David Boies, are introducing a lawsuit against the state of California, saying that by denying same-sex couples the right to marry, the ability to marry they are violating the Equal Protection Rights under the U.S. Constitution for same-sex couples. Why are they wrong?

MR. GIBBS: I have not read the opinion or —

TAPPER: The President supports the idea that people should be able to — same-sex couples should be able to enter in civil unions. Boies and Olson — a very conservative lawyer — are saying that is a violation —

MR. GIBBS: Olson. (Laughter.)

TAPPER: Not Boies, right — Olson, a very conservative lawyer, saying that is a violation of the Constitution. It is also the position the President holds, that there should be civil unions, not same-sex marriage. Why is it not a violation of the Equal Protection clause?

MR. GIBBS: Jake, let me have somebody take a look at the pleading that they’re going to make. I don’t know what they’re arguing —

TAPPER: Generally. Just forget the specific argument; I’m just talking about their general argument is that by having — by not allowing same-sex couples to marry, it is a violation of equal protection.

MR. GIBBS: Right, well, again —

TAPPER: And that’s the President’s position, so —

MR. GIBBS: But let me — well, the President’s position, we’re all aware of. I hesitate to be general about the legal underpinnings of an argument based on some portion of the Constitution. I think that they may be somewhat hard to generalize. So let me have somebody take a look at that and see if we have anything based on what Mr. Olson and Mr. Boies are doing.

Yes, sir.

But what about same-sex marriage in general? And how Obama has nothing to say about that? Surely, Mr. Gibbs, you have thoughts on that?

TAPPER: But today’s context includes the financial crisis there and the controversy over Proposition 8. The President, as far as we know, is not going to speak out on any of these issues while he’s in California. Do you think that’s appropriate?

MR. GIBBS: Well, let’s try not to mix up the questions here and let me see if I can keep them straight. I think the notion that the President isn’t concerned about the economic conditions of this country I don’t think holds a lot of validity, given the actions that he’s taken to get our economy moving again; to get the resources that California needs to invest in their infrastructure and to take care of their citizens; to ensure that kids have health care. I think he’s taken steps to do that and I think most people in California are confident in that, as well.

Sure, but what about the notion that the president isn’t concerned about the civil rights of this country?

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