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Published on May 9, 2012
WASHINGTON -- In a nod to a dramatic shift in public opinion, Barack Obama on Wednesday became the first sitting president to announce his support for same-sex marriage.
In a sit-down interview with ABC's Robin Roberts, Obama completed what has been a markedly long and oft-mocked evolution on the matter.
"I've always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly," Obama told Roberts, in an interview that will air in full on ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday.
"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point 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," he said.
The statement constitutes an act of political bravery on the president's behalf, as well as a major victory for the gay rights community, which has been pushing him to declare his support for marriage equality for several years.
Still, the symbolism of Obama's remarks is hard to ignore. In becoming the first president to publicly support marriage equality, he sets the bar for its political acceptance. He also has the ability to shape public opinion further on the matter.
Of course, there may be drawbacks to such a strong expression of support. While recent polls show that popular support for marriage equality is gaining widespread acceptance, some pivotal swing states remain largely opposed to the concept. And one of them, North Carolina, remains a major target for the president's reelection campaign.
"The question is, is there a risk?" a prominent Democratic Party official who requested anonymity told The Huffington Post after Biden's remarks. "It is not nationwide [polling] we are talking about. We are talking about Virginia, North Carolina and other swing states. And we are talking about, would Karl Rove and his team stoop to using horribly grotesque and hateful tactics ... and would that peel off 10,000 votes?"
As of Wednesday, that question was hypothetical. Now, it's a critical component of the 2012 election.