Feature

Obama ‘evolves’ on gay marriage

President Obama declared his personal support for gay marriage.

President Obama declared his personal support for gay marriage for the first time this week, after he came under mounting pressure to take a stand. The president, who had previously described his views on same-sex marriage as “evolving,” told ABC News, “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.” Obama said, however, that he still believes states should decide the issue on their own. Earlier in the week, Vice President Joe Biden told an interviewer he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage—bringing a new wave of criticism on the president for lacking political courage. Mitt Romney, the president’s GOP rival, reaffirmed his own opposition to gay marriage. “I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender,” he said, “and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name.”

Obama’s decision to endorse gay marriage brings “real political risk,” said Chris Cillizza in WashingtonPost.com. On the plus side, it will fire up Obama’s young, liberal fans, and could even “excite the donor base,” given that one in six of Obama’s campaign bundlers is gay. But gay marriage is still a hot-button issue in a nation that narrowly supports it, and it could hurt him in some swing states in November. In the end, Obama had “little choice but to get off the fence, given the furor caused by Biden.”

The president needn’t worry too much, said Jennifer Rubin, also in WashingtonPost.com. This long-awaited final stage of his cynical “evolution” probably won’t change a single vote. Most opponents of gay marriage are “committed conservatives” who would never vote for Obama, and black Democrats—who generally oppose gay marriage—will support him no matter what. The most likely result is a sudden surge in enthusiasm for Romney among evangelicals and social conservatives. Soon enough, “everyone will go back to worrying about the economy.”

Political implications aside, this is a hugely important, historic turning point for gay people, said Frank Bruni in NYTimes.com. For our highest elected official to openly support the right of gays and lesbians to marry shows he thinks of them as equals, our “humanity as unassailable” as any other American’s. Every closeted teen cowering in fear that their sexuality marks them out as different or wrong can take reassurance from that. “Our country has traveled an enormous distance.” 

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