Supports legal recognition of same-sex marriage, a matter decided by states. Opposed that recognition in 2008 presidential campaign - and in 2004 Senate campaign - while supporting the extension of legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples in civil unions. Achieved repeal of the military ban on openly gay service members. Has not achieved repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and affirms the right of states to refuse to recognize such marriages. Administration has ceased defending the law in court but it remains on the books. Directed government to require all hospitals that get Medicare and Medicaid financing to grant visitation privileges to gay and lesbian partners of patients. But has declined to issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against gay employees, holding out instead for congressional action to extend such protection to workers in all sectors. In 1996 Illinois state Senate campaign, stated: “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages,” a position he later abandoned at the federal level and now embraces again. “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” he said.
Opposes legal recognition of same-sex marriage and says it should be banned with a constitutional amendment, not left to states. “Marriage is not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state.” Also opposes civil unions “if they are identical to marriage other than by name,” but says states should be left to decide what rights and benefits should be allowed under those unions. Says certain domestic partnership benefits -largely unspecified - as well as hospital visitation rights are appropriate but “others are not.” Says he would not seek to restore the ban on openly gay military members. Asserted in 2002 campaign for Massachusetts governor that “all citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of sexual preference,” in tune with statements years earlier as a Senate candidate that equality for gays and lesbians should be a “mainstream concern.” But did not explicitly support marriage recognition and, as governor, opposed same-sex marriage when courts legalized it in Massachusetts. “My view is that marriage itself is between a man and a woman.”