The president of the United States has just endorsed gay marriage—putting him not just in stark opposition to Mitt Romney but to Americans who firmly oppose it and have defeated every state referendum designed to legalize it.
Obama made the declaration to ABC News just three days after Joe Biden said he was “absolutely comfortable” with men marrying men and women marrying women—which prompted some administration officials to suggest the vice president was freelancing and that his remarks had not been cleared in advance.
While Obama insisted he was speaking personally, rather than mounting a campaign to change state laws: "I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that 'don't ask, don't tell' is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told ABC’s Robin Roberts. The full interview will appear on Thursday’s Good Morning America, with excerpts Wednesday evening on World News.
At the risk of resorting to hyperbole, this is a political earthquake that shakes the landscape by putting a divisive culture-war issue front and center. The betting had been that while Biden and others would signal support on a wink-wink basis, Obama would play it safe and take no position until after the election.