Obama finishes 'evolving,' endorses gay marriage

Published: Wednesday, May 9 2012 4:23 p.m. MDT

In this May 8, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in Washington. President Barack Obama faced mounting pressure Wednesday to express support for same-sex marriage after a setback for gay-rights advocates in North Carolina.

Associated Press

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News Analyis:

A frenzied week of speculation and punditry on gay marriage reached its apex Wednesday when President Barack Obama stated his support for gay marriage in an interview with ABC, ending years of equivocation and what he self-described as an "evolving" position.

“At a certain point," Obama said, "I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."

“I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient,” Mr. Obama said. “I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that invokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs."

Obama announced his position after three days of major news about the issue. First, Vice President Joe Biden declared Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press that he was "absolutely comfortable" with gay marriage.

“Look, I am vice president of the United States of America,” Biden said. “The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual — men and women marrying — are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that.”

This was followed on Monday by Arne Duncan, secretary of Education, who declared "I do," when asked by Joe Scarborough if he supported gay marriage. No pun apparently intended.

All of this was brought to a head on Tuesday when North Carolina residents voted overwhelmingly to elevate their traditional marriage law to state constitutional status, over strong objections from the Obama campaign. Obama expressed disappointment in the results earlier Wednesday, then set up the interview with ABC.

Obama said his Christian faith was a factor in his decision.

“We are both practicing Christians," he said, referring to himself and his wife, Michelle, "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,” he said. “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

In a related event, a bill that would have allowed civil unions for same-sex couples in Colorado died in the Legislature late Tuesday night.

The conventional wisdom had been that the president would continue to wiggle out of the issue, maintaining his Hamlet imitation while allowing his subordinates to wink at gay marriage supporters.

Some concern centered on the president's possible exposure among black voters, who polling data suggest strongly oppose gay marriage. But as Jonathan Capehart observed in the Washington Post, black voters are so solidly behind Obama that the impact of this one issue will hardly register.

Whether Biden's statement on Sunday was planned by the White House or an accidental outburst in patented Biden tradition, its effect seems to have paved the way for Obama to finally embrace what most observers already clearly understood.

Implications for November's election remain murky.

On the one hand, the death of the civil unions bill in Colorado and the North Carolina vote to affirm traditional marriage and ban civil unions and domestic partnerships seem in line with the fact that about 30 states maintain marriage as between a man a woman via constitutional amendments another dozen states do so by state statutes.

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