President Obama's self-described evolving position on gay marriage has yet to reach its final destination, but at a White House press conference Wednesday, he praised a similar evolution underway in state courts.
"I think it is important for us to work through these issues-- because each community is going to be different and each state's going to be different -- to work through them," he told reporters in the East Room.
"And so I think the combination of what states are doing, what the courts are doing, the actions that we're taking administratively all are how the process should work."However, the president stopped short of answering the question posed to him about whether or not gay marriage is a civil right.
Citing New York's recent ruling that gay marriage is legal in that state, the president rode the line between praising the law and supporting the process under which it was passed.
"What I've seen happen over the last several years, and what happened in New York last week, I think, was a good thing," he said, "because what you saw was the people of New York having a debate, talking through these issues. It was contentious, it was emotional...but ultimately they made a decision to recognize civil marriages. And I think that's exactly how things should work."
But the president's support for that state-level approach fell flat with National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey, who told Fox News, "The more President Obama and others focus on the role of the states in resolving the marriage question, the more it distracts from what same-sex couples, their families and others want, which is moral leadership. And, the last ten years of leaving it to the states hasn't worked out so well for our families. Yes, states will have their say but we want the president to lead, not follow."
Consistently a sore spot for Mr. Obama among his gay rights constituency, the president's stance on every aspect of the issue has been under the microscope from the outset, particularly given his early opposition to gay marriage.
The president laid out Wednesday all of the actions he has taken to ensure protections for the gay community, like the elimination of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law, allowing gay servicemen and women to serve openly in the military without the fear of reprisal. Mr. Obama also noted that his administration has come out against the Defense of Marriage Act, a law which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
Still, he refused to answer the question about whether or not he personally supports gay marriage, telling reporters, "I'm not going to make news on that today."
The president recently said his position on gay marriage is "evolving," but he has yet to announce its conclusion.
The president does have support from the gay community. He's held events at the White House in support of gay rights; including one scheduled Wednesday night to mark LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Pride Month.
Just last week, Mr. Obama attended a fundraiser in which hundreds of supporters in the LGBT community raised money for his re-election. However, protesters staged outside that event called for full marriage rights for all LGBT Americans; yet another nagging reminder that unless the president comes full circle on gay marriage, not everyone will be satisfied.
"We want President Obama to recognize our full lives and humanity," Carey said. "We are disappointed that he has not yet joined millions of people around the country and the world who support marriage equality. As this nation's leader, it's where we would hope and expect him to be. We continue to urge him to join us on the right side of history when it comes to full equality for LGBT people, and this includes marriage."