New Yorkers celebrate Obama's 'evolution' on same-sex marriage
President Barack Obama is done "evolving" on the issue of gay marriage.
On the heels of Vice President Joe Biden’s support of it, and a vote in North Carolina to constitutionally ban homosexual couples from marrying, Obama said Wednesday that he believes all couples should be allowed to walk down the aisle.
“It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” he said in an interview with ABC in excerpts of his comments released Wednesday afternoon.
Obama is the first sitting president to publicly speak in support of gay marriage.
Though Obama repealed the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” rules that forced service members to hide their sexual orientation and ordered his administration to stop enforcing the “Defense of Marriage Act,” which defined marriage as only being between a man and a woman, he had long avoided taking a firm stance on same-sex marriage.
Less than a year after New York became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage, people across the city celebrated Obama’s words of support Wednesday.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is marrying her longtime girlfriend later this month, called Obama “brave and courageous.”
“It’s exciting for me — someone who is getting married a week from Saturday — to see this announcement and to know that as Kim [Catullo]and I walk to the altar, we’re walked there not just by our fathers, not just by the great state of New York, but we’re also being walked there by the president of the United States,” Quinn said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed legislation allowing gay couples to marry last year, said Obama did not bring up the issue when the two men met in an appearance in Albany on Tuesday.
“I think when the president stands up and makes this statement, it will now resonate all across this nation,” Cuomo said. “It will bounce off the airways from coast-to-coast.”
Ben Kampler, a bartender at Stonewall Inn, where a 1969 police raid sparked the modern gay rights movement, called Obama's position a “landmark.”
“I always thought that he was supportive of gay marriage internally, but it’s a political landmine,” said Kampler, 28, who married his partner in New York in August.
Randy Guzman of Brooklyn, who was also at Stonewall Wednesday, said he was “jazzed” after hearing Obama speak.
“He has incrementally been moving in that direction,” Guzman, 32, said of Obama. “I think the next step is him saying, ‘Screw it, federal law — I’m making it happen. They get their rights.’ Women got them, blacks got them and now it’s the gays."
Political experts said President Barack Obama’s statements in support of same-sex marriage would help him in the election against presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Christina Greer, a political-science professor at Fordham University, said Vice President Joe Biden’s comments on Sunday that he was “comfortable” with gay marriage may have been used as a “trial balloon ... [for] what public opinion is."
“I think it’s a win for him, for sure,” Greer said of Obama. “This will galvanize Democrats.”
Political strategists said Obama’s comments also helped differentiate himself from Romney, who, in an interview with Denver’s CBS affiliate earlier in the day, said he’s against gay marriages and civil unions “if they are identical to marriage other than by name.”
Democratic political consultant Evan Stavisky said Obama’s comments won’t alienate swing voters, “who tend to prefer marriage equality [rather] than oppose it.
“This is not a position that the president came to lightly. He’s obviously grappled with the issue,” Stavisky said. “Most voters are smart enough to recognize that this is a question of personal conscience.”