Opposing Same-Sex Marriage Not Priority For Boehner, Reid Evolves

By: CNN (Posted by Kion Hudson)
By: CNN (Posted by Kion Hudson)

(CNN)-- While House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday he disagreed with the President's support of same-sex marriage, he downplayed the issue's importance in the November elections emphasizing instead his focus on the economy.

"I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman," Boehner said, but quickly added, "the President and the Democrats can talk about all this all they want but the fact is that the American people are focused on our economy and they're asking the question, 'Where are the jobs?'"

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Pressed repeatedly about plans to move any legislation to restrict same-sex marriages, Boehner acknowledged some members are emphasizing the issue, but he immediately returned the conversation back to measures that would create jobs, making it clear the socially divisive issue was not a priority for him.

Why did Boehner change the subject? A House Republican leadership source told CNN Republicans believe the issue of same-sex marriage splits the country, so it is a "wash politically."

Boehner and his team also calculated that the president's renewed focus on same-sex marriage gives Republicans even more running room on the economy – the issue voters care most about.

"Every fight, every squabble we get in dilutes our focus on economy," said the House GOP leadership source.

"This allows us to make the contrast we like. They [Democrats] talk about x, y, z and we talk about the economy," said the GOP source.

Still, Boehner neglected to mention that he and top Republicans in the House approved using taxpayer funds to pay an outside attorney to represent the House of Representatives in an effort to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, a law signed by President Clinton which allows states to restrict federal benefits for same sex couples, and permits states to not recognize same-sex marriage laws in other states. The Justice Department said last year it would not fight for the law in the courts.

Asked about GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's pledge to press for a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, Boehner remained on message, saying "I'm going to stay focused on jobs."

Underlining that focus, Boehner's own press shop emailed out a press clip reporting on his comments at the press conference.

In the Senate where Democrats are in charge, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would consider bringing a vote to the Senate floor to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

"If a state legalized civil unions or marriages, then the federal government wouldn't pay benefits – Social Security…retirement benefits. It would do none of that and I think that's wrong. So what, we'll be happy to take a look at it," said Reid in response to a question from CNN.

He then added that Republicans would likely try to block a Defense of Marriage Act repeal on the Senate floor.

"It's not, it's not a, it's not a Democratic problem, it's a Republican problem," said Reid.

He also said that based on his work early in life as a lawyer on domestic issues, he believes laws governing same sex marriage are best left up to the states.

When it comes to his personal views, Reid released a statement Wednesday night saying he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. However, he also said his children and grandchildren have made him understand that society is more accepting of same-sex marriage.

Reid said Thursday if the issue came for a vote in Nevada, he would vote to support same-sex marriage.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi tried to tamp down the notion that President Obama's embrace of same-sex marriage could impact conservative Democrats competing in tight races in the upcoming election, calling the move "more important than any political consequences."

Pelosi, an early supporter of gay marriage, said "the statement that the President made yesterday was something that was the right thing to do for our country and it filled my heart with joy."

Referring to the President's announcement Tuesday, the House Democratic Leader told reporters Democrats "didn't know it was coming." And Pelosi pushed back on the notion that the President decided to publicize his support of gay marriage because it would help him raise money among those in the gay community and Democratic circles who were pushing to change the party's platform on the issue.

"I really dismiss the idea that this had anything to do with money," Pelosi said.

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