Obama Believes Gay Marriage 'Best Addressed By The States': White House Official

White House Official: Obama Believes Gay Marriage 'Best Addressed By The States'

WASHINGTON -- As President Obama gets set to host a high-profile fundraiser at an LGBT gala in New York City Thursday, two potentially awkward developments confront him.

New York's state legislature seems poised to pass a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage, both expanding the legal right to marriage and drastically altering the political debate.

In Washington, D.C., meanwhile, questions have again emerged over the president's past support for same-sex marriage, specifically as to whether a nameless former staffer or Obama himself signed a 1996 questionnaire favoring marriage for same-sex couples.

The president will likely confront questions on the issue as he heads into Thursday night's event. There will also likely be protesters at the gala demanding a clarification of his position.

At a White House briefing on Monday, Press Secretary Jay Carney stressed that the president had been nothing but consistent in saying that his position was "evolving" on the topic.

"What I know is what his position was during the campaign and what it is now," Carney said. "He’s been very clear about it. He was very clear in the campaign. He’s very clear about the fact that his position is evolving. I don’t have anything to add to that."

Monday afternoon, a White House official offered a slightly more concrete answer in an email statement to The Huffington Post.

"Although the President believes that this is an issue best addressed by the states, he also firmly believes that committed gay and lesbian couples should receive equal protection under the law," the official said.

Respect for states' rights with regards to marriage is a position shared by many prominent officials and politicians, including Republicans like Dick Cheney. While it falls far short of a full-throated endorsement of same-sex marriage -- a gap that will keep LGBT activists rankled -- as it comes just days before Thursday gala, the White House official's statement offers both an indication of where Obama's evolution currently stands and a hint as to how the president will handle the inquiries that will be coming his way.

Obama is reportedly looking for politically comfortable ways to take a more open stance on same-sex marriage. Stressing states' rights, with a basic federal guarantee of benefits for same-sex couples, could be the path he's looking for.

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