Gay marriage opponents predict President Barack Obama's public endorsement of same-sex marriage will hurt his re-election chances and pledge to push the issue in key swing states. Officials at the National Organization for Marriage, a political group that helps fund state-based campaigns against gay marriage, had already denounced the president's position and said Tuesday they are confident their efforts will help ensure a victory for Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
"I believe that this will lead to President Obama being a one-term president," said NOM president Brian Brown, during a call with reporters. "If you look at key swing states—Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa—those are all states where you had overwhelming majorities vote to protect marriage, and I think that we are going to focus on making very clear that this is a key distinction obviously."
Ohio, Florida and most recently, North Carolina have all passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. While it's legal in Iowa via a court ruling, NOM counts votes to recall justices who supported its legalization as a sign from voters that they oppose it.
Brown pushed back against recent polling that shows Americans' views shifting rapidly in favor of same-sex marriage, claiming they often used 'biased' polling questions. He also pointed to the fact that despite any polling, each of the states that have had popular votes on same-sex marriage have seen voters come out against it. Gay marriage is legal in six states, either through court rulings or by legislation.
Another polling flaw is that they often fail to accurately predict which voters will turn out, says Frank Schubert, NOM's political director.
"What we will see is the presidential election in some ways becoming a proxy for the survival of traditional marriage in America," he said. "The studies show that there are a significant number of voters who do not vote in presidential or gubernatorial contests, but they do vote when issues of morals are on the ballot, especially marriage."
While the Obama campaign has quickly shifted from avoiding the topic to flouting and fundraising off it, Brown said the president was showing his hand far ahead of the recent announcement.
"Given that President Obama had been working to undermine [Defense of Marriage Act], had come out against all of the amendments that would protect marriage, I don't really see this so much as an evolution as an unmasking of what he already believed given his actions," he said, referring to a federal law passed in the 1990s that allows states to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Under Obama, the Department of Justice has dropped its defense of the measure, which is currently being challenged in court.
Four states, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, will actually have measures on their state ballot regarding same-sex marriage. NOM says they plan on participating in those elections as well.
Ultimately, advocates on all sides of the issue predict the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final say. A trio of cases are headed down the path, but the decision by a federal appeals court to not re-hear the decision that struck down California's ban on gay marriage could mean that case could head to the top court as soon as next year.
That, too, is a matter for presidential election voters to consider this fall, Brown said.
"The president, through the nomination of justices to the Supreme Court, can have a very significant effect depending on the timing of all these and the outcome," he said. "I'm confident that Mitt Romney will nominate judges who understand that their role is to interpret the law and not create it out of thin air. I am not confident that President Obama will do that."
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.