The Article: Obama Backs Gay Marriage by Jennifer Epstein in Politico.
The Text: President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he now supports gay marriage, saying “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.”
“I’ve stood on the side of broader equality for the LGBT community. I hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient,” Obama said in a White House interview with ABC News’s Robin Roberts. “I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word ‘marriage’ evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs.”
But, the president said, years of discussion had resulted in an “evolution” to the point that many supporters had hoped for — full backing of gay marriage.
“I have talked to friends and family and neighbors; when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage,” he said, explaining why he’d made the decision.
Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage, the first ever from a president, came just a day after voters in North Carolina approved a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and following Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement Sunday on “Meet the Press” that he is “absolutely comfortable” with men marrying men and women marrying women. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview Monday on MSNBC that he also supports gay marriage.
For Obama and his top political advisers it came down to a choice between two unpalatable alternatives: come out in support of marriage equality and brave the backlash in battleground states where the issue could be a liability — or keep silent and be accused by allies of gutlessness and putting politics over his principle.
In the end, people close to the president say, it was a no-brainer: The core of their argument against Mitt Romney is that he is an untrustworthy politician with no real core of conviction. Obama’s advisers — who are acutely conscious of the media’s criticism despite their professed contempt for the news cycle — simply couldn’t afford to have the president appear like a coward on the front and editorial pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post, according to senior Democrats.
Roberts said during a special report on ABC on Wednesday afternoon that Obama said he’d planned to announce his changed views on gay marriage before the election in November, though perhaps not this soon. But, Roberts indicated, the president wasn’t upset that Biden and Duncan had spoken out.
Obama said Wednesday he is confident that support for gay marriage will continue to expand over time. When he visits college campuses, it’s clear that students “are much more comfortable with it” than older generations.
The same is true for his daughters. “You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples,” Obama said. “There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”
First lady Michelle Obama’s views on gay marriage were also influential in the decision making, he said.
“This is something that, you know, we’ve talked about over the years and she, you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do,” the president said. “In the end, the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people.”
Though supporting gay marriage could put them at odds with other Christians, Obama said that when he and his wife think about their faith, “the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I’ll be as president.”
Obama said in late 2010 that his views on gay marriage were “evolving” and, since then, administration officials have pointed back to those comments, stressing that Obama is a supporter of gay rights who has overseen the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and whose Justice Department has stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act.
A Gallup poll released Tuesday showed that 50 percent of Americans said they support the legalization of gay marriage, while 65 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents said the same. But support for gay marriage doesn’t reach across party lines – among Republicans surveyed, 27 percent said they support legalizing gay marriage.
On Tuesday, 61 percent of voters North Carolina – a state that Obama won in 2008 and that’s considered key to many of his paths to a second term – approved a ballot measure strengthening the state’s ban on gay marriage with a constitutional amendment doing the same. The Obama campaign said in a statement that “President Obama has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples and is disappointed in the passage of this amendment.”
Facing a barrage of questions during his daily briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that “the president is the right person to describe his own personal views” — something Obama finally did on Wednesday afternoon.
Richard Socarides, who advised President Bill Clinton on LGBT issues, said that because of Obama’s comments, Wednesday would “go down in the history of the gay rights movement with Stonewall as a real turning point.” Socarides said he had been hearing for at least six months that Obama had made up his mind to support gay marriage but had been waiting for the right time to speak out on his views. “After Biden’s comments on Sunday, it was clear he had to say something.”
Obama said it in the right way, said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry. “The president could not have made the case better and will undoubtedly help persuade Americans who have been wrestling with this question,” he said. “The more people who speak out for the freedom to marry and how they got there, the better it is. And when the president of the United States is one of those people, it will move the country even further along.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney backs a federal Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and was opposed to the Massachusetts state court decision legalizing gay marriage that came down while he was governor.
Asked to comment on the president and gay marriage Wednesday morning while working a rope line, Romney deferred, saying just, “Not on the ropeline.”
But Romney did comment on a bill that fell Tuesday in Colorado’s legislature to Fox affiliate KDVR, saying, that “when these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts, I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name.”
RNC chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement that “[w]hile President Obama has played politics on this issue, the Republican Party and our presumptive nominee Mitt Romney have been clear. We support maintaining marriage between one man and one woman and would oppose any attempts to change that.”
Wednesday afternoon, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt fired back, immediately thrusting the Obama decision into the campaign.
“We’ve amended Constitution to expand rights. Romney, RNC on record saying they want to enshrine discrimination into it,” LaBolt tweeted.
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