The most pressing effort comes from within Obama's own party. Several high-profile Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and more than 20 Senate Democrats, want support for gay marriage added to the party's election platform. The platform will be adopted at the Democratic National Convention in early September, where Obama will accept the presidential nomination.
So far, Obama advisers have sidestepped questions about whether he would support a gay marriage plank on the platform.
"We don't even have a platform committee yet, much less a platform," Obama senior adviser David Plouffe said in a television interview.
A person close to the Obama campaign said the president's re-election team is wary of the platform effort and prefers to let the president move on the issue at his own pace.
People familiar with the campaign's thinking requested anonymity in order to discuss internal strategy.
Gay rights advocates hope state ballot initiatives on gay marriage, like the one in Maine, could force Obama to weigh in, as he has on other state issues.
"He's going to be in a lot of situations like this where the issue becomes unavoidable," said Socarides, a former Clinton White House official. "Even though he might want to avoid this, I think he's going to come up right against it in so many situations in the next couple of months."
Obama's reluctance to embrace gay marriage has increasingly put him at odds with a majority of Americans. A Washington Post/ABC News poll this month found that 52 percent felt it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married, while 43 percent said it should be illegal.
Support for gay marriage is highest among Democrats, with 64 percent supportive of the issue. Just over half of independents — 54 percent — back legalized gay marriage, according to the Post/ABC poll. Support among Republicans is the lowest, at 39 percent.
Gay rights advocates say those numbers — particularly the growing support among independents — suggest there would be little political risk for Obama in backing gay marriage. And they say taking a stand in an election year could help boost enthusiasm among gay voters and young people, two core Obama constituencies.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said the president's evolution on gay marriage will be personal, not political.
"The president and the president alone will come to a decision," LaBolt said.
Maine's state Legislature approved gay marriage in 2009, but voters rejected it 53 percent to 47 percent that November. Gay marriage supporters believe enough people have changed their minds that the outcome will be different this time around.
Associated Press Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta in Washington and AP writers David Sharp and Clarke Canfield in Portland, Maine contributed to this report.
- Mitt Romney talks IRS, AP records, Benghazi...
- LDS missionary 'stable' following hit-and-run...
- Treasury IG says Obama administration...
- Girl gets surprise reunion with dad at Rays...
- A look at why the Benghazi issue keeps coming...
- Fly a flag for Cody: Army confirms Utah man...
- Pa. coffee run leads to hatchet hitchhiker...
- IRS probe ignored most influential groups on...
- Mitt Romney talks IRS, AP records,... 58
- 'Unprecedented': Obama administration... 27
- Attorney General Eric Holder says he... 21
- Journalists push back against Obama... 21
- Angry Orrin Hatch: IRS guilty of... 19
- IRS lacked 'sensitivity' in screenings... 17
- House chairman sees IRS targeting as... 16
- Angelina Jolie announcement leads to... 12