MSNBC’s Watson: Obama Should Lead on Gay Marriage Like LBJ on Civil Rights

Carlos Watson, MSNBC During the 2:00PM hour of live Wednesday coverage on MSNBC, anchor Carlos Watson called on President Obama to stand up for gay marriage, comparing the issue to the civil rights movement: "You know what I predict, just like we saw LBJ in the late 60's, very unexpectedly and very famously, looked into the camera, addressed the nation, and say ‘we shall overcome,’ adopting the language of the civil rights movement, I wouldn't be surprised if before 2012 we see President Obama get out in front on this."

Watson made the comment while discussing the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Proposition 8 with Roy Seacoff, editor of the left-wing Huffington Post. Earlier in the segment, Seacoff commented on a recent article Watson wrote for the liberal website: "Now Carlos, I know, because I read it on the Huffington Post... That you think that this is the moral equivalent of Plessy vs. Ferguson." Watson explained: "The old – the old 1890s case that said ‘separate but equal.’" Seacoff added: "Right, separate but equal. Right. And I tend to agree with you, which makes me sad that Obama is behind the curve on this issue."

Here is the full transcript of the exchange:

2:33PM SEGMENT:

CARLOS WATSON: This afternoon, the American Foundation for Equal Rights announces a federal lawsuit to overturn Proposition 8, the proposition in California which declares marriage is only between a man and a woman. Now the California Supreme Court's decision to uphold the ban led to protests from L.A. to New York, leading many people to believe the case is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, if it does, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor could help decide the future of same-sex marriage in this country. Roy Seacoff is founding editor of the HuffingtonPost.com. Roy, good to see you, thanks for joining me.

ROY SEACOFF: Good to see you, Carlos.

WATSON: Roy, so how significant a political issue will this be, particularly for Democrats, like President Obama, who right now have taken a stand that says ‘I'm in favor of civil unions but no to same-sex marriage.’

ROY SEACOFF: Now Carlos, I know, because I read it on the Huffington Post, and the Stimulist-

WATSON: And the stimulist-

SEACOFF: That you think that this is the moral equivalent of Plessy vs. Ferguson and-

WATSON: The old – the old 1890s case that said ‘separate but equal.’

SEACOFF: Right, separate but equal. Right. And I tend to agree with you, which makes me sad that Obama is behind the curve on this issue. I mean, he is not upholding his promise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, he’s not upholding his promise on Don't Ask Don't Tell. He allowed Lieutenant Choi to be fired. So he feels like – it feels like he's really behind the curve on this issue and I think that's sad because I think he needs to be out front, leading the issue. Because I think you’re right, it is the moral equivalent of Plessy vs. Ferguson, where we had separate but equal, now what do we have? There – it's together but unequal? Some people who were married get to stay married but the people – the new people can't get married. It seems like they're tying themselves up in knot on this issue.

WATSON: But realistically, because we know how tough these issues were, a version of them, for President Bill Clinton as the new president – new Democratic president in '93.

SEACOFF: Right.

WATSON: Given all that Obama has on his plate, is it realistic to expect that he could tackle this, even if his – even if his heart is in one place, can his political judgment be in another?

SEACOFF: I think on a moral question like this it has to be. I mean, it's all in the name of political expediency, it starts to feel bad, I get it, I get the real politic, I get the history of Clinton, but as you say, things have changed a lot since '93 when Clinton tried to make Don't Ask, Don't Tell and kind of got stuck up in a 6 months of studies and gave them time to come against it. So I actually think that he needs to lead on this. You know, the problem is that at the end of the day he's going to go that way and it's going to look like he's hopping on the bandwagon, like everybody’s who’s suddenly in favor of Orlando taking the NBA title. Little late in the game for that.

WATSON: You know what I predict, just like we saw LBJ in the late 60's, very unexpectedly and very famously, looked into the camera, addressed the nation, and say ‘we shall overcome,’ adopting the language of the civil rights movement, I wouldn't be surprised if before 2012 we see President Obama get out in front on this.

SEACOFF: And don’t forget, though, Johnson only did that after Bloody Sunday, after King, you know, mobilized the forces and we saw what happened when the soul of the nation was captured by those images of people beaten on that bridge. That’s what made Johnson turn around.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC