In Obama adviser David Axelrod’s new book, he reveals that in 2008 the future president did indeed believe in marriage equality, but he was persuaded by Axelrod and others that it would be too risky to say publicly. So he took the standard Democratic position at the time, in favor of civil unions but against marriage rights. I imagine that exactly no one is surprised by this. And while it isn’t an excuse for deception, the decision should be understood in the context of that historical moment, The context of Obama’s falsehood is important to understand—both his own thinking and the reception his statements on the matter received.
Usual suspects squealing re PBO's 2008 realism re gay marriage, while ignoring all his LGBT achievements since
In 2008, the Democratic Party was undergoing a rapid change in its approach to same-sex marriage, and the stated positions of almost every candidate were in flux. Four years before, when the issue exploded into national debate after the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalized marriage equality (their ruling actually came down in late 2003), Most of the presidential contenders came down in support of civil unions but against marriage rights, a position that just happened to be where the median voter was. By 2008, everyone seemed to understand that the position all the major Democratic candidates were taking was a temporary way-station on the path to an eventual embrace of full marriage equality. Nobody really believed that was where the party and its representatives were going to stay.