Obama: Support for Gay Marriage ‘May Hurt’ Politically

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  May 10, 2012 at 9:26 AM EST

Stonewall Inn; photo by Timothy A. Clark/AFP/GettyImages

New York resident Niki Buchanan smokes outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village shorty after President Obama announced his support of same-sex marriage. Photo by Timothy A. Clark/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

In Wednesday’s interview with ABC News, President Obama said it would be hard to argue that his personal support of same-sex marriage and his reversal on the issue are for political advantage.

“[T]he politics, it’s not clear how they cut. In some places that are going be pretty important — in this electoral map — it may hurt me,” the president told ABC’s Robin Roberts, shaking up the presidential campaign and reigniting a cultural debate.

The president’s team doesn’t seem to think so, however. They trumpeted the news Wednesday night with a message from the president to his campaign supporters.

Mr. Obama’s note included a link to the interview and asked people to “consider it, and weigh in yourself on behalf of marriage equality.”

“What I’ve come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens,” Mr. Obama wrote, asking supporters to “stand up with me” if they agree.

The Obama campaign also released a new web video comparing the president with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. It mashes up the president’s new position with multiple statements from Romney on same-sex marriage, civil unions and gay rights issues.

It closes by evoking the campaign slogan introduced earlier this spring: “President Obama is moving us forward. Mitt Romney would take us back.”

Watch the video here or below.

Polls show Americans remain divided on the idea. The latest Gallup survey had the split at 50 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed), and the news comes as North Carolina became the 30th state to ban same-sex marriage in its constitution.

The list includes other swing states such as Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Virginia.

During his interview with Roberts, the president also discussed his “evolution” on the issue, which he said came after New York voted to legalize same-sex marriage last year.

“I asked myself — right after that New York vote took place, if I had been a state senator, which I was for a time — how would I have voted? And I had to admit to myself, ‘You know what? I think that I would have voted yes,’” Mr. Obama said. “It would have been hard for me, knowing all the friends and family that are gays or lesbians, that for me to say to them, you know, ‘I voted to oppose you having the same kind of rights and responsibilities that I have.’”

He also spoke about what he sees as a “generational” shift taking place in the country.

“[W]hen I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the — the economy or on foreign policy, but [they] are very clear that when it comes to same-sex equality or, you know — sexual orientation that they believe in equality. They’re much more comfortable with it,” the president said.

The polling appears to support that argument. A Pew Research Center poll done last fall showed the youngest voters (ages 18 to 30) overwhelmingly favor gay marriage, 59 percent to 35 percent. Generation Xers support it, 50 percent to 42 percent, while Baby Boomers are opposed to it, 42 percent to 48 percent.

Politico’s Joe Williams writes that black voters are divided over same-sex marriage.

Talking Points Memo collects all the polls over time.

NewsHour partner Dante Chinni of Patchwork Nation argues that the move is unlikely to shake up the race in any dramatic fashion. Read his take here.

On Wednesday, Judy Woodruff spoke with Kerry Eleveld, an author formerly with The Advocate who was the first reporter for an LGBT news organization ever granted an interview with the president.

“This moves the conversation forward,” Eleveld said.

Judy also moderated a debate between Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry and the Rev. Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md.

Jackson said he rejects any comparisons between gays and lesbians and the black civil rights movement, a reference to the campaign against North Carolina’s amendment. (NewsHour reporter-producer Katelyn Polantz wrote about that here.)

“I haven’t seen a lot of gay people in the back of the bus recently or lynched or some of the things that blacks went through,” he said. “[T]here is not that same kind of oppression and opposition, though it’s always bandied about that it’s just like the black civil rights movement.”

Wolfson stayed away from that argument and said he salutes the president’s evolution on the issue.

“There’s enough marriage to share,” Wolfson said. “And when gay couples get married, it means they take on a commitment in law that matches the personal commitment they have made in life. It doesn’t change anybody else’s marriage.”

Watch the segment here or below:

ALL IN-DIANA

On Wednesday, Gwen Ifill examined the GOP primary loss of Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar with Brian Howey and Greg Fettig, a Tea Party activist who made ousting the six-term senator his No. 1 goal.

Howey, who runs the blog Howey Politics Indiana, called Lugar’s campaign “the classic death by 1,000 nicks.”

Fettig applauded winner Richard Mourdock’s pledge not to compromise should he win the general election, telling Gwen that polarization is “a reality today in American politics.”

They each outlined whether the Democrats actually have a chance at winning this seat in the fall.

Watch the segment here or below:

Christina, Gwen and Judy talked about Indiana and the shrinking middle ground in the Political Checklist. You can watch that here.

Don’t miss Paul Kane’s piece in the Washington Post exploring whether the Indiana race gives the Democrats a better opportunity to retain control of the Senate.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Politico’s Charlie Mahtesian looks at “seven states where Barack Obama just bought himself headaches with his historic decision to back gay marriage.”

  • Campaign organizers told the New York Times that George Clooney’s fundraiser for the president “had raised well over $6 million, plus many millions more through an online raffle — record territory. They said they stopped selling $40,000-a-plate tickets last week because there was no room to squeeze in any more tables.”

  • Reuters looks at how super PAC donors are able to temporarily fly under the radar.

  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is sending statements from his super PAC. ABC’s Shushannah Walshe explains.

  • A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found the president holding a one-point lead — 45 percent to 44 percent — over Romney among registered voters in Ohio. The survey has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent.

  • The president leads Romney 46 percent to 45 percent among likely Florida voters, according to a new Suffolk University/7NEWS poll. Seven percent of Sunshine State voters said they were undecided. The slim advantage for Mr. Obama is within the poll’s four-point sampling error.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • NewsHour reporter-producer Cassie Chew writes that the National Republican Congressional Committee is confident that having Romney at the top of the ticket will help House GOP candidates.

  • The Washington Post examines whether the presidential endorsement of same-sex marriage portends more action on gay rights.

  • The New York Times writes that “Congressional ethics investigators concluded in a report released Wednesday that Representative Vern Buchanan, a Florida lawmaker who leads House Republican fund-raising operations nationwide, appeared to have tried to illegally influence the testimony of an ex-business partner regarding allegations of campaign finance violations in his own race.”

  • Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad writes that Blong Xiong, a Democrat running in California’s 21st Congressional District, would make history as the first Hmong-American in Congress.

  • The Montana Senate air wars are starting in earnest.

  • Your update on the John Edwards trial.

  • Sarah Palin picked a candidate in the Nebraska Senate GOP primary.

  • Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., now holds dual U.S. and Swiss citizenships.

  • Republican Senate nominee Josh Mandel of Ohio is cutting into Sen. Sherrod Brown’s lead, a new poll shows.

  • The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert highlights two numbers from Wisconsin’s gubernatorial primaries Tuesday and what they might mean for next month’s general election contest between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Tom Barrett.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama attends campaign events in Seattle at 3:50 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. and in Los Angeles at 10:20 p.m.

  • Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks on college affordability at the White House at 10:45 a.m.

  • Mitt Romney holds a campaign event in Omaha, Neb., at 2:40 p.m.

  • Ron Paul has no public campaign events scheduled.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz and @indiefilmfan.