Gay-Marriage Rivals See Gains from Obama Remarks
NEW YORK (AP) - From the left and the right, rival sides in the gay-marriage debate claimed they would reap Election Day benefits from President Barack Obama’s long-awaited declaration that he supports same-sex couples’ right to wed.
For some gays, however, the politics were secondary to an emotional embrace of what they viewed as history in the making.
"Wow - that was wow," said Rodney Mondor of Portland, Maine, after hearing the news. He has lived with his partner for 13 years and is raising a 12-year-old son in a state that will be voting in November on whether to legalize same-sex marriage.
Gay-marriage supporters said Obama’s pronouncement on Wednesday would galvanize legions of progressive voters who had grown impatient with the president’s self-described "evolving" on one of the nation’s most divisive social issues.
"There are, no doubt, some places where it will hurt him, and it may change his Electoral College strategy," said Richard Socarides, a former Clinton White House adviser on gay rights. "But ultimately it’s a big plus for him - it highlights his willingness to tackle tough issues in a thoughtful but ultimately decisive way."
Opponents of gay marriage depicted Obama as bowing to gay-rights pressure, and predicted his new stance on marriage would jeopardize his re-election chances.
"President Obama has now made the definition of marriage a defining issue in the presidential contest, especially in swing states like Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Nevada," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
While six states have legalized gay marriage, and three more could do so this year, 30 states - including North Carolina on Tuesday - have passed constitutional amendments limiting marriage to unions of a man and a woman.
In Ohio, the head of a conservative group that approved such an amendment in 2004, predicted a backlash that would hurt Obama.
"He’s going to lose Ohio and he’s going to lose all the states that are huge on this issue," said Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values. He advised Obama’s presumptive Republican rival, Mitt Romney, to seize on the issue and campaign hard against gay marriage.
Chris Seelbach, elected last year as Cincinnati’s first openly gay city councilman, suggested that Obama might lose some votes with his declaration, but will gain others.
"It will energize some of the people who have been waiting a long time for this and have been disappointed," he said. "Some of us are extremely proud today and ready to do whatever we can, do 120 percent, to get him re-elected."
In addition to Maine, gay marriage may be on the Nov. 6 ballot in three other states.
Minnesota voters will be asked to decide on a ban-gay-marriage amendment similar to those in other states. In Maryland and Washington state, opponents of same-sex marriage are circulating petitions on behalf of proposed ballot measures that would overturn laws passed earlier this year to legalize same-sex marriage.
Zach Silk of Washington United for Marriage, a coalition that supports the gay marriage law, said Obama’s remarks were "an enormous boost for us."