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Actions Speak Louder Than Words: How the Obama Administration Has Worked Behind the Scenes to Advance Marriage Equality

Ultimately, it's the courts that will ultimately make marriage equality the law of the land in all 50 states.

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The Obama administration has a pretty good record on LGBT issues, but it has also had a sometimes contentious relationship with gay rights activists.

Even in the wake of Obama's “evolution” on marriage last week, some critics seized on his statement that the states should decide whether to offer gay and lesbian Americans equal treatment under the law.

Yet it is only the courts – not the executive or legislative branches – that can require the states to honor same-sex marriages. And actions speak louder than words.

This week, Chris Geidner, senior political editor for the LGBT magazine Metro Weekly, appeared on the AlterNet Radio Hour to highlight where the administration has missed opportunities to advance gay civil rights, and to explain how the administration has been working to advance marriage equality nationwide in the courts – out of the glare of the political press. Below is a lightly edited transcript of the interview (you can listen to the whole show here).

Joshua Holland: Chris, we have folks like Rick Santorum running around blathering about how marriage has always been between a man and a woman and all that. Did you know that Professor John Boswell, the late chairman of Yale University’s History Department, discovered in ancient Christian liturgical documents that the church was performing same-sex marriages hundreds and hundreds of years back?

Chris Geidner: Yeah.

JH: I had never heard that.

CG: Professor Boswell has done a remarkable amount of work looking at the history of where the Christian religion has actually been on this issue.

JH: We had marriage equality back in the Dark Ages, it seems -- back in the 10th and 11th centuries. Now we’ve regressed greatly. Also if you go to the Kiev Art Museum there’s a painting which appears to show Jesus himself officiating over a marriage between two men. I did not know any of this.

CG: I definitely have not seen that.

JH: It’s fascinating stuff. Getting back to the present. This week Obama made huge news by coming out in favor of full marriage equality. Let me ask you, were you surprised by this move?

CG: I wasn’t surprised by the decision that he made. I think it’s been clear that we were really looking at a matter of when, not if on this issue. I think that clearly the vice-president’s eager words on "Meet the Press" this past weekend created a media situation that didn’t allow for the president to do this on his timeline. In order to get back to the topics that they want to be spending the election season on, they had to just get this done.

JH: And it's six months before the election, so it’s not going to be an immediate, salient issue. Some people say that Joe Biden had a carefully plotted-out balloon -- a trial balloon. I tend to think Joe Biden is famous for running off his mouth and got ahead of himself. What’s your take?

CG: I don’t buy the idea that it was a trial balloon. I think it always comes down to a tweet these days. It’s not follow the money; it’s follow the tweets. When Chuck Todd said that the vice-president’s office had contacted him immediately after the interview aired and told him that that vice-president was speaking for himself and not the administration – that sort of makes clear where things were, even though later David Axelrod, representing the campaign, made a statement saying that the vice president hadn’t said anything more than what the president had already said.

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