The comments had put them at odds with President Obama, who previously said his position was “evolving.” As Obama had supported same-sex marriage before his presidential bid, then distanced himself from that stance, “evolving” is certainly one way to describe it.
Then on Wednesday, the president backed same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC News. It’s a courageous move for him.
Obama’s support of gay marriage comes on the heels of North Carolina’s primary, which amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, already illegal in the state.
Ever since Obama backed away from his earlier support of same-sex marriage, LGBTs and allies have been pressuring him to publicly support it, even as they suspected that he privately did. The most recent was former Gov. Ed Rendell, who said Tuesday Obama should “man up and say this is what I believe,” adding that he didn’t think it would deter African-American voters, and that those who vote based on the single issue of gay marriage aren’t voting for Obama anyway.
Regardless, it’s an enormous risk for Obama and he’s staking his presidency on it. Already in this primary-election season, the Republican candidates have vocally opposed same-sex marriage: Although he’s out of the race, former candidate Rick Santorum reiterated his opposition to it Tuesday night on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney reiterated his stance Wednesday, saying that he opposed both marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples, but that domestic-partnership and hospital visitation rights are “appropriate.”
This is certainly a risk for Obama. It’s possible that he could lose the support of independents. But it’s also possible that Rendell is right, and that he won’t lose the support of African Americans who already support him. It’s also possible that this will galvanize LGBT, youth and progressive voters, who may have been lukewarm on Obama recently.
Certainly, the enthusiasm that surrounded the 2008 election is noticeably absent — though that may be because the election is still six months away.
But Obama has work to do. In a CNN poll released Monday, Romney was ahead of Obama by 1 percentage point, with a 3.1-percent margin of error — essentially tied.
For the LGBT community, this is historic: It’s the first time a sitting president has publicly spoken in favor of marriage equality. For that alone, Obama deserves kudos and support.
Thank you, Mr. President, for changing the game.