PICTURED: The Rachel Maddow show featured the Windy City Times exclusive Jan. 14. At left is the excerpt they showed, at right is Maddow asking Bishop Gene Robinson about the apparent change of heart Obama has had, backing away from full gay marriage rights.
In last week's Windy City Times, we revealed for the first time the complete answers from Barack Obama to a 1996 Outlines newspaper questionnaire. While we had reported before that Obama backed same-sex marriage in that election for state Senate, the old survey had just been found in the Windy City Times archives and published in full for the first time. ( Outlines merged with Windy City Times in 2000. )
In that Outlines survey, which had been sent to all local and federal candidates, Obama or someone in his campaign did not just answer yes or no, but instead typed a complete set of answers to the survey, and Obama signed the bottom of the page. On the marriage issue it said: "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."
This evidence of Obama's shift from early support to where he stands today -- opposed to gay marriage but in favor of civil unions -- caused quite a stir last week. The Windy City Times story was picked up around the country, first on blogs and then on news programs. The story was on The Rachel Maddow Show ( where the host brought it up during an interview with Bishop Gene Robinson ) , the Advocate, the Christian Broadcasting Network, Fox News, Huffington Post, Politico, Towleroad, Dan Savage's blog, Andrew Sullivan's blog, and in numerous other stories, both in the gay media and mainstream media.
The survey from 1996 was found during my archival dig into more than 300 boxes of old Windy City Times and Outlines newspaper files. I am scanning old items for the www.ChicagoGayHistory.org Web site, so as I continue to find more items we will be posting those.
Last week, I found yet another Obama survey response, this time from the 1998 race where he was seeking re-election for state Senate. This time, Obama's campaign just wrote their answers on our Outlines questionnaire. There was a three-part question on same-sex marriage: Do you favor legalizing same-sex marriage? Would you support a bill to repeal Illinois legislation prohibiting same-sex marriage? Would you co-sponsor it? For all three questions he wrote in "undecided". The shift away from same-sex marriage support had begun. Later, in his run for U.S. Senate, he backed away further, now saying he favored civil unions, and felt marriage is a state's issue.
See the complete story from last week's Windy City Times at www.WindyCityMediaGroup.com . The complete 1998 survey is also online with this article. [ In 1998 he also answers "not sure" and "need more info" when asked about the military's gay ban; now he says he is opposed to the ban; in this case one step forward instead of two steps back. ]
Tracy Baim is publisher and executive editor of Windy City Times. She was the co-founder and publisher of Outlines newspaper.