BY Kerry Eleveld
November 12 2009 9:35 PM ET
Remarks made Monday by senior Obama official Melody Barnes to students at Boston College School of Law caused a stir when some attendees said she expressed her support for same-sex marriage during a question and answer session.
The Huffington Post reported that if the accounts were accurate, “Barnes becomes perhaps the highest-ranking White House official to signal support for same-sex marriage.”
The Advocate screened a copy of the recording (available below), which was provided by the college’s communications department and should be posted to their website at 1:00 p.m. on Friday.
The questioner, Boston College law student Paul Sousa, voiced a number of concerns about what he called President Barack Obama’s “separate but equal” stance on same-sex marriage, before asking, “What I would like to know is whether or not you support equal civil marriage rights for gay and lesbian Americans, and if so, are you speaking or will you speak with President Obama on this civil rights matter?”
Barnes responded: “I appreciate your question, and I also belong to United Church of Christ. And I guess I would respond in a couple of different ways. One, I appreciate, I really appreciate your frustration and your disappointment with the president’s position on this issue. He has taken a position, and at the same time, he has also articulated the number of ways that he wants to try and move the ball forward for gay, lesbian and transgendered Americans, including signing the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and a whole host of other things that we’ve started to do to model as a leader in terms of what the federal government is doing, as well as to encourage changes both in the military, in the workplace, and certainly with regard to hate crimes. I accept that that is very different than what you are talking about. And what you’re talking about is something that is quite fundamental.
“With regard to my own views, those are my own views. And I come to my experience based on what I’ve learned, based on the relationships that I’ve had with friends and their relationships that I respect, the children that they are raising, and that is something that I support. But at the same time, when I walk into the White House, though I work to put all arguments in front of the president, as you say, I also work for the president. And we have very robust policy conversations, very robust constitutional conversations with the White House counsel, and others about these issues, and we’ll see what happens from there. At this point, all I can say to you is that his plans right now are to move the ball forward in the ways that I’ve described. He hasn’t articulated a shift in his position there, and that is something that at this moment I accept as it being, it is what it is, even as we continue to have a national, or we continue to have a conversation with him about it.”