Reactions to Obama’s gay marriage endorsement

In the wake of US President Barack Obama’s historic endorsement of gay marriage in a TV interview Wednesday, checked in with analysts, activists and voters across the political spectrum. Here’s a selection of their reactions.


Darrell West, political analyst at left-leaning Brookings Institution

It is a bold move for President Obama to endorse gay marriage….It shows political courage on [his] part and a willingness to lead, even in the face of political unpopularity. It probably won't have a big impact on the election, but it will help the president turn out his base and raise money.

John Fortier, right-leaning analyst at Biparisan Policy Centre

Will the stance help [Obama] or hurt him with the electorate? A little bit of both. In some states, for example North Carolina, there are majorities against it. But there is strong support in the Democratic base, and this decision will motivate his base, although it may turn off voters in more conservative and swing states.

Will there be substantive legal changes? If Congress is even partly in Republican hands, they will not pass pro-gay marriage legislation. And the president cannot effect this change by himself, but he might take some smaller steps with executive branch orders. [His] main role will be to explain and persuade.

Dr. Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia

Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage is historically important, but not one that is of great electoral importance. He certainly could have looked better doing it had he got out in front on the issue and shown political courage in backing it. Instead, he was essentially forced into publicly stating a position that most people already believed he privately held.

The voters who are most opposed to gay marriage weren’t going to vote for Obama anyway, while those most in favour are among those most likely to vote for him. As for the independents, recent numbers showed a slight majority favouring gay marriage. More importantly, while culture war issues like gay marriage were important in the 2000 and 2004 elections, the 2012 election is going to be all about the economy.

Karlyn Bowman, analyst at right-leaning American Enterprise Institute

At this point in the campaign, Obama is trying very hard to reconstruct and solidify his base. I believe he has been honestly wrestling with this. In this case, people who care strongly about the issue will probably be energised by it. Does it bring people out on the other side? I think those voters would already be on Romney's side.

Ari Berman, political correspondent for The Nation

It's a largely symbolic change in position, since Obama still said states should decide the issue, but it's nonetheless an important victory for gay rights. The president's stance will help him with young voters, gay voters and progressive voters. It could potentially hurt him with working-class white voters and conservative elements of the African-American community, but at the end of the day, the 2012 election will be decided by the economy, not gay marriage.

Laura Chapin, Democratic strategist in Colorado (swing state)

The voters have been ahead of the politicians on this for a while now, and I think the president is simply acknowledging that reality. He's done about as much as he can on the federal policy level, and now it will be up to states like Colorado to pass equality laws. And the president's position puts Mitt Romney at even more of a disadvantage with young voters in Colorado, a group he was struggling with already.

Lex Paulson, Obama campaign staff member in 2008

Many of us who worked for the president in 2008 and watched him tiptoe around the question of gay marriage felt a sad kind of irony: who he was…made it politically impossible for him to speak out on our biggest remaining civil rights issue. If he wanted to win, he simply couldn't be black, have a foreign-sounding name and be for gay marriage at the same time. Luckily, it's clear the country is increasingly where we suspected [Obama] always wanted to be.

David Badash, gay rights activist, founder and editor of website “The New Civil Rights Movement”

President Barack Obama's comments in support of the right of same-sex couples to marry will have a profound impact on the American spirit. Larger cultural shifts will result from today's announcement. And given that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, it actually delivers him more supporters - certainly more active ones. No laws will be changed as a direct result of this, but when the leader takes a stand, others follow.


John Farina, 62-year-old Republican voter and professor of Religious Studies

For me, it’s a non-event. I never believed he wasn’t in favour of gay marriage; it goes along with everything else he does. I think it will energise the right-wing base, especially in swing states. He can’t run on his record. Romney will kill him on economy. I personally think gay marriage should not be a federal issue. Marriage is a state issue. It’s also an issue in which the government has always had an interest, for future generations. That’s how we survive as a race. Gay marriage makes no sense in that regard. If you want to give gay couples other rights, like pensions or health care, I have no problem with that. But there should be some special protection for marriage, because that’s where children are produced.

Anthony Rosario, 31-year-old gay Hispanic voter in New York

[Obama’s endorsement] means more widespread acceptance [of gay rights], and that I did the right thing voting for him the first time. I am really energised hearing about his position on same sex marriage. I will definitely vote for him again. I appreciate someone that can learn to see issues with new perspective.

Emily Einhorn, 26-year-old voter in Massachusetts

President Obama's decision to publicly support gay marriage was critical. As a young voter, I felt it was ridiculous that he had not said this earlier and appreciate him taking a stance before the election. So much of politics is disheartening and filled with politicians making moves that feel disingenuous. As a leader who has spoken about being a change agent, it was about time that he used this platform to support such an important issue.

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