ONTD Political

The president finally declares his support for gay marriage. Here's why he did it.
—By David Corn

President Barack Obama's evolution ended today, when he told ABC News one of the worst kept secrets in Washington: he's good with gay marriage.

For the past several days, the politerati have been abuzz over this matter, after Vice President Joe Biden appeared on Meet the Press and, in response to a question, said he was for marriage equality. An impassioned Biden declared he was "absolutely comfortable" with gay marriage. This detonated a media frenzy. The next day, reporters hurled questions at White House press secretary Jay Carney about the president's neither-for-nor-against-but-evolving position. The headline on a Washington Post piece by Dana Milbank described Biden's comment as a "gaffe" that was a "mess for the White House." Meanwhile, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, during a Monday interview, noted that he, too, favored gay marriage. Why have you not said so before? he was asked. No one had bother to inquire, Duncan replied.

Speculation exploded. Was the White House mounting an orchestrated campaign to pave the way for an Obama declaration of support for same-sex marriages? And if so, why? Gay and Democratic activists had been threatening to wage a platform fight at the presidential convention this summer over a pro-gay marriage plank. Was Obama now taking steps to avoid such a made-for-cable fuss?

In Washington, the first question always is, what's the political gain? But in this instance, despite all the hypothesizing, that was not obvious. Specific Obama constituencies could be expected to be heartened by this announcement: the gay rights community, fundraisers (one of six Obama bundlers are openly gay), and young voters. But same-sex marriage does not generally poll well among African-Americans and Latinos, two voting blocs Obama must rev up in November.

A recent Gallup poll found that half of Americans believe same-sex marriages ought to be recognized by law as valid. But how does this play in the swing states that will decide the election? On Tuesday, North Carolina voters (in a low turn-out affair) decisively passed a measure that would amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage, which is already illegal in the state. Is that an indication that Obama could suffer in this critical state—where the Democrats will hold their convention—for endorsing gay marriage? Six other swing states already have constitutional bands on gay marriage: Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Four do not: Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Arizona. A poll in Arizona found voters split on the issue. In Iowa, a survey found only 38 percent backed a state constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage; 56 percent opposed the ban. (By the way, since 1998 voters have gone to the polls 32 times to vote on gay marriage—and have each time opposed it.)

There are multitude of ways to spin all this. Voters who care about same-sex marriage may not be influenced by Obama's decision. Those who favor gay marriage already knew—or suspected—Obama was with them; those against it probably already opposed Obama for (among other things) his support of other gay rights measures. Then again, perhaps this could provide social conservative voters not enthused about Mitt Romney with more cause to join the fray. Remember those evangelical mega-churches in Ohio that were crucial to George W. Bush's 2004 victory?

In any event, the most solid analysis of how Obama's decision will impact the election is likely this: who knows? Democratic sources close to the White House and the Obama campaign tell me that this certainly wasn't a carefully planned endeavor on the president's part. One well-informed Obama insider put it this way:

Biden created a swirl of new questions and the president doesn't like for people to be confused about where he stands...The politics is complicated, though. While people are more and more copacetic with marriage equality, it's not necessarily something they want the president spending his time on. So it isn't necessarily a slam dunk regardless of what he does. As always, between the politics, the voters, the media, and the president's closest supporters, there are a lot of needles to thread here.

Gay marriage, it seems, was a looming dilemma for the president. Biden's unplanned comments placed this challenge on the center stage, and the president and his aides decided now was the time to confront it, realizing the political consequences could be mixed. Obama may have just figured it was time to come out on gay marriage and then he'll take it from there.


Mods: I know I just submitted a post on this topic, but I thought the commentary and further links in this article made it worth posting.
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bludstone 9th-May-2012 08:42 pm (UTC)
For votes?
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bnmc2005 9th-May-2012 08:54 pm (UTC)
Don't care about why or what for. It's a good thing. I'm glad it happened.
alryssa 9th-May-2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
Already had one Republican call the county party office here declaring that she wouldn't vote for Obama now despite disliking Romney, this is a deal breaker.

Good thing I wasn't answering the phone, I would have told her to stay her bigoted ass at home.
bnmc2005 9th-May-2012 09:08 pm (UTC)
If this is the "deal-breaker" than she probably wouldn't have voted for him anyway.
sparkindarkness 9th-May-2012 09:13 pm (UTC)
"comes out"

No. Really, no. Really dislike this word choice.

Shame it wasn't 4 years ago. Good thing it's finally happened - but it took a lot of prodding and a lot of dragging - and if it takes you that long to acknowledge the humanity of your fellow human beings, I don't think there's a lot of praise for finally turning round and saying "hey, I've met a lot of you, I've decided you ARE deserving of equal human rights!"
thecityofdis 9th-May-2012 09:16 pm (UTC)
oh thank god
blinkidybah 9th-May-2012 09:13 pm (UTC)
all the republicans I know already thought he was going to frog-march people into the streets and forcibly gay marry them even before this announcement, so I can't see it changing much except to maybe reignite some of the disillusioned progressives considering staying home in November.
thecityofdis 9th-May-2012 09:16 pm (UTC)
so whatever, apparently i'm the most curmudgeonly bully of a queer around, but i can't be the only one side-eyeing the fuck out of the article headline.

i mean, i guess i could, but - really, mother jones? really really?
sparkindarkness 9th-May-2012 09:20 pm (UTC)
No, not at all. Of course, I'm well known for being "overly sensitive" about people appropriating the language of the closet and the coming out process

because, y'know, supporting huamn rights is totally as arduous as revealing to the world you're GBLT.
nyxelestia 9th-May-2012 09:22 pm (UTC)
Way back in '08 I speculated that Obama DOES support gay marriage, he just didn't want to say it because of swing voters. Seems I was right.

As the article mentioned, people who fall on one side or another of gay marriage tend to fall on a similar side on a whole host of other political issues - people who support gay marriage usually already are more Democratic, while people who oppose it are already more Republican.

It is a bit risky because of the age skew - younger people tend to be more supportive of gay marriage, but also have a reputation of low voter turn out.

For swing voters who may be undecided about party and who they will vote for, I get the impression that these are the types who are a bit more apathetic about gay marriage - Obama's platform on gay marriage won't be a big factor in their decision on who to vote for.

Not to mention, this is a big sliding forward effect - wherever we are right now, the writing on the wall is that we will eventually reach marriage equality; the only question is how we are going to get there and how long it will take. And people are increasingly supportive of gay marriage, or at least no long oppose it, so while it may not mean much for Obama, supporting gay marriage will be a big help for future running Democrats.
ellonwye alternative headline9th-May-2012 09:51 pm (UTC)
spyral_path 9th-May-2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
My first thought was I'm glad he finally grew some balls. It would have been nice if he had said he was for gay marriage four years ago, but since he can't go back in time, there is no way he can fix that. I am glad this happened, and I'm impressed that it happened in an election year.
baked_goldfish 9th-May-2012 10:20 pm (UTC)
I think Biden deserves more of the credit here, because if it wasn't for his comments I think Obama would have been perfectly happy to avoid this issue until after the election.

Yeah. I can see the test balloon argument because it's not like they haven't used Biden in that capacity before, but at the same time I think it's more that they ended up treating his comments as a test balloon after the fact rather than them sending him out there to check things out. The way they reacted Sunday afternoon into Monday into Tuesday was too much of a clusterfuck for me not to be a little skeptical.
kynical 9th-May-2012 10:08 pm (UTC)
I'm a bit selfish in I wish Obama could've waited till after reelection to do this. It hurts him with a good-size segment here in Western Iowa. People that are economically independent, but socially conservative.
kishmet 9th-May-2012 10:31 pm (UTC)
I think I can side-eye this move and be happy about it at the same time if I want. On the one hand it's like, okay, this is pretty much the minimum that can be expected from a decent human being and it should've been said earlier, but I know a fuckton of people in real life who won't say even this much

So I mean, this is a rare enough show of decency that I'm glad to hear it from the president, which is actually kind of sad now I type it out
johnjie 9th-May-2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
I'm really glad he's endorsed gay marriage!
lozbabie 9th-May-2012 11:27 pm (UTC)
So he's endorsed gay marriage but won't actually do anything?
moonshaz 10th-May-2012 12:18 am (UTC)
I think it's too soon to assume that he's not going to do anything. This statement is a start. It's only a start, but it IS a start.
crossfire 9th-May-2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
Fuck right off with that headline.
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