Time Magazine Officially, Obama’s position on marriage equality is “evolving”–a stock phrase intended to buy time until a hypothetical second term. By backing gay marriage, Obama would risk alienating a range of potential supporters — including older, rural populists and conservative black Christians — as well as motivating Evangelicals who remain unenthusiastic about Mitt Romney. As it stands, Obama has the support of same-sex marriage advocates even as his fuzziness frustrates them. Planting himself in the muddled middle may be an optimal political tactic.
As Obama’s advisers point out, the President has done more to promote equal rights for gays than any of his predecessors. He instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act. He backed the reversal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He has opposed discriminatory practices. “We wouldn’t be removing every federal barrier we can, on our own, to ensure gay and lesbian couples have the same rights and protections as other couples” if Obama did not support equal legal rights for gay couples, said Stephanie Cutter, the president’s deputy campaign manager, in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “There are significant accomplishments in this Administration to ensuring equality for everybody.”
True. But gays have done a lot for Obama as well. Reviewing Obama’s donor lists, the Washington Post notes that about one-in-six of Obama’s top campaign bundlers is gay. Same-sex marriage advocates, who are working to make their cause part of the Democratic party’s platform at this summer’s convention (in North Carolina), grasp that Obama is hemmed in by the looming election. But they also say the right moral stance happens to be smart politics. Young voters, including many of those whose enthusiasm for Obama has dimmed, overwhelmingly support gay marriage. In a new Gallup poll released today, 57% of independents say they support legalizing same-sex marriage. Some of the rumored contenders for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016 also happen to be governors who backed same-sex marriage in their state — including New York’s Andrew Cuomo, with whom Obama appears today in Albany.