A year ago, Obama claimed that "attitudes evolve, including mine" on the issue of same-sex marriage, but it's been an open secret for over three years that he supported marriage equality before reaching the national stage. David Corn called Obama's support for marriage equality "one of the worst kept secrets in Washington," calling it "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.
In his landmark speech today endorsing same-sex marriage, Obama grounded this evolution in the faith he shares with the First Lady:
"we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our 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 as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I'll be as president."
Religion Dispatches points out this "at odds" situation with right-wing religious rhetoric:
Obama didn't just endorse same-sex marriage today. He abandoned conservative religious rhetoric about it and signaled that religious conservatives, even his close religious advisors, don't own the conversation on what Christianity has to say about marriage.
Predictably, Fox freaked out over the statement and claimed that Obama "declared war on marriage," to which Jason Easley of Politicus USA responded:
They think that it is still 2004 and same sex marriage is a potent culture war issue that will carry them to victory. Same sex marriage is a wedge issue, but not in the way the right thinks it is. [...] ...when Fox News and the right try to revive the culture war and use gay marriage as political wedge, they are only hurting themselves and their party.
Andrew Sullivan cautions that "The interview changes no laws; it has no tangible effect. But it reaffirms for me the integrity of this man we are immensely lucky to have in the White House" while observing that "Today Obama did more than make a logical step. He let go of fear:"
He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That's why we elected him. That's the change we believed in. The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to "cure" gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?
My view politically is that this will help Obama. He will be looking to the future generations as his opponent panders to the past. The clearer the choice this year the likelier his victory.
Obama should be confident that he's on the winning side of this issue, as--for the second consecutive year--a majority of Americans support marriage equality.
After being questioned about same-sex marriage, Romney complained to a reporter, "aren't there issues of significance that you'd like to talk about?" In contrast to this insulting dismissal, Obama sent this pro-marriage email to his supporters:
Today, I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer: I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. [...]
I've always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. I was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes. And I thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution.
But over the course of several years I've talked to friends and family about this. I've thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships who are raising kids together. Through our efforts to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, I've gotten to know some of the gay and lesbian troops who are serving our country with honor and distinction.
What I've come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.
Even at my own dinner table, when I look at Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples, I know it wouldn't dawn on them that their friends' parents should be treated differently.
So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.