Today, in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News, President Barack Obama came out in favor of same sex marriage (video below). In recent days, this issue has become particularly politically sensitive, as we all know. On Sunday, on Meet the Press, Vice President Biden announced his support for same sex marriage, which administration officials immediately said was his own personal belief, and not that of the administration. Then, yesterday, North Carolina voters resoundingly approved an amendment to the state’s constitution banning marriage between same sex couples.
During the interview, Obama claimed that he has been evolving on the issue, that everyone should be treated equally on it. However, until now, he hesitated on the subject of marriage, since he thought that civil unions would sufficiently address many of the problems same sex couples face. He also said that the concept of marriage itself is important to many people opposed to same sex marriage. However, he said that he thought now was a time for him to affirm his support for same sex marriage since he believes that a lot of people are still infringed upon by the lack of its legality.
With the passage of the North Carolina amendment yesterday, now 30 states have laws on the books mandating that marriage is between one man and one woman. When Mitt Romney today was asked about this, he said that he supports some aspects of equality, but still rejects same sex marriage.
Why did Obama speak out now? Well, perhaps the off handed comment by Biden as well as some other administration officials, forced his hand, to some extent. Also, he probably knew that North Carolina voters would vote the way that they did, so he did not want to announce prior to that election. If he had, then the vote would have been regarded as a rejection of himself.
What is the political calculus for November? Voters who are most likely to be opposed to same sex marriage are those who are over 55, live in the Bible Belt, or are African-American. For the first two groups, Obama is not likely to get much support in the general election regardless of his position on this issue; for African-Americans, regardless of what he does, he will probably get their vote, if they vote. That is his big problem. How can he get African-Americans to vote in numbers like they did in 2008 in the Midwest and in states like Pennsylvania and Virginia?
What does he gain by this? Well, younger voters have lost much of their enthusiasm for him. This action may induce them to support him more rabidly, or at least get them to cast their ballots. Also, knowing that Romney may be able to compete financially with his campaign, Obama may want to get some of his wealthy supporters to contribute more money.
Here’s the video of the interview: