With President Barack Obama's comments May 9 that he supports gay marriage, his now explicit position on the controversial topic could energize his base, but it could also energize backers of traditional marriage-who remain a strong force despite growing support for same-sex marriage.
The swing state of North Carolina overwhelmingly passed a marriage amendment the day before his remarks, and 30 other states have passed similar constitutional amendments. Several more will vote on marriage measures this year. Opposition to same-sex marriage is strong in the black community: Heavily African-American counties in North Carolina overwhelmingly approved the traditional marriage amendment. Harry Jackson, a black pastor who has fought efforts to legalize same-sex marriage around the country, said Democrats shouldn't be overconfident in the African-American vote: "Although many political analysts believe this announcement will blow over by November, they seem to forget that President Bush won Florida and Ohio in 2004 because of a 7 to 11 percent shift in the black vote alone."
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney does not support the legalization of same-sex marriage or civil unions if they are the same as marriage. But he believes gay couples should be allowed hospital visitation rights and domestic partner benefits. He reaffirmed his position after Obama's statements. Citing his Christian faith, Obama announced in an ABC News interview that he personally supports gay marriage. But he said he believed states should decide the issue rather than the federal government-something North Carolina did in a May referendum that amended the state constitution to say marriage is between one man and one woman.
"When we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing Himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule-treat others the way you would want to be treated," he said, explaining his new position. Previously he supported same-sex civil unions, but not marriage. Back in 2004 as a Senate candidate, Obama cited his faith as his reason for opposing same-sex marriage: "I do believe that tradition and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."