Earlier this afternoon, President Obama became the first U.S. president to openly support same-sex marriage – declaring unequivocal support for gay marriage in an interview with ABC.
There are a number of reasons why the president did this, and it was shrewdly timed – occurring hours before he heads to Hollywood tonight for a fundraiser at the house of actor George Clooney.
1. First, Getting Out the Vote. The Obama campaign will undoubtedly use his endorsement to mobilize its progressive base to get behind a major grassroots GOTV initiative and energize huge swaths of the party, including young people and independent voters, many of whom back gay marriage.
Among the 30 states that have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages are key battleground swing states like Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina. These states have a combined 114 electoral votes up for grabs.
2. Second, the president had increasingly come under pressure from gay-rights activists and progressive interest groups following Vice President Joe Biden’s comments in support of gay marriage over the weekend, and the endorsement by Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday. Put simply, it had become simply untenable for the president to continue to draw the line at civil unions while even members of his own cabinet are publicly endorsing gay marriage.
3. Third, the donor base: One in six Obama’s 2012 campaign bundlers are gay, according to research conducted by the Post’s Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam. While the gay community has applauded the president on his efforts to do away with “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell’’ they have made it clear that they are growing impatient with Obama’s repeated insistence that he is “evolving’’ on the question of same sex marriage. With the Obama campaign increasingly relying on donations from the gay community in its fundraising efforts, publicly declaring his support for gay marriage was a very strategic move.
4. Fourth, the convention. The Democratic Convention will be held in North Carolina – which just voted to implement a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. With labor unions and progressive groups beginning to talk about boycotting the convention if Obama failed to endorse same-sex marriage and include support for “marriage equality” in the party’s platform this November, the president could not afford to be on the wrong side of the issue going into the convention.
5. And finally, with recent public opinion polling suggesting that the nation is evenly divided on the issue it had become simply untenable for Obama to get away with saying that his position was “evolving” and would be clarified soon.