By Teresa Welsh |
President Obama announced Wednesday that he now supports same sex couples’ right to get married. The president, who had been against gay marriage in 2008 but later said his views were “evolving,” explained that he had decided to support gay marriage some time ago, but had been deciding the most appropriate time to publicly announce it. However, Vice President Joe Biden’s comments earlier last weekend that he was “comfortable” with gay marriage put pressure on Obama to clarify his own stance. Though a number of the administration’s initiatives—from repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military to ending the Justice Department’s defending of the Defense of Marriage Act—have furthered the cause of gay rights, this is by far the strongest statement in favor of equal rights for homosexuals made by Obama, or any sitting president.
Obama’s announcement came the day after North Carolina voters passed an amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, showing that the issue is still very politically contentious, even as a whole the country is trending towards support of same sex marriage. Political analysts disagree on whether Obama’s support will help or hurt him, come November. Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who in his 1994 senate race against the late Sen. Edward Kennedy said he would do more for gay rights than his opponent, reiterated his opposition to same sex marriage. His campaign has since tried to steer the discussion back to the economy, where polling shows Obama is most vulnerable. Proponents of gay marriage say Obama’s announcement energizes his base—particularly young people and the gay community—which otherwise may have been disappointed by the president. Opponents argue that gay marriage gives conservatives, who have been skeptical of Romney, a reason to rally behind the former Massachusetts governor. Will Obama’s support of gay marriage help him win re-election? Here is the Debate Club’s take:
Evan Wolfson Founder and President of Freedom to Marry
Rea Carey Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force