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David Axelrod: Obama lied when he claimed to oppose same-sex marriage in 2008

Barack Obama campaigns in 2008.
Barack Obama campaigns in 2008.
Joe Raedle / Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

  1. Barack Obama secretly supported same-sex marriage when he first ran for president in 2007 and 2008, and publicly lied in claiming he did not, according to a new book by his former aide David Axelrod.
  2. According to Time's Zeke Miller, Axelrod writes that despite his private support, Obama "grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union.'"
  3. Axelrod writes that, as other Obama aides have said, the president had long planned to announce his supposedly newfound support for same-sex marriage in the 2012 campaign. Vice President Biden's unexpected decision to do so first forced Obama to move up his own timetable.

An evolution, or a performance?

Watch the video below to see how Obama talked about same-sex marriage in 2008. According to Axelrod, Obama is flat-out lying here:

"I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman," Obama told pastor Rick Warren at an August 2008 event, as the audience at the Saddleback Church applauded. "For me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God's in the mix." Apparently, that wasn't true.

Axelrod's account also contradicts the standard story told by the president and his staffers — that Obama "evolved" on the issue, gradually being convinced of the error of his ways. Now, it seems clear that Obama changed his position only after public opinion had already changed — after he was convinced that revealing his true views wouldn't put his reelection at risk.

As of 2014, Obama had changed his public position yet again. Same-sex marriage was not merely something he personally supported — it was a right guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.