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How Obama’s Pro-Marriage Equality Stance Is Bridging the Enthusiasm Gap

by Daniel Scheffler
Thursday Jul 5, 2012

After years of vacillating, when President Barak Obama finally announced his full support for marriage equality, there was a collective sigh of relief from LGBT voters, and then a cheer.

Oh sure, some activists remain disappointed that the president didn’t forcefully state his opposition to the remaining 39 states that ban such marriages. But among the rank and file, this has not dampened enthusiasm. Among the Democratic Party’s gay and gay-friendly elite, there has been a public and private push to support the president with words, deeds, and the most important thing in a national political campaign, money.

By waiting so long to take a stand, the president risked appearing to be following, rather than leading, the people. On the very eve of his historic statement, Gallup released a poll that showed a majority of Americans favoring marriage equality.

Biden’s role

The catalyst for the president’s statement was Vice-President Biden, who inadvertently broke ranks with advisors when he stated simply his support on a TV news show. After that, Obama was finally forced to take a definite stance.

Afterward, he appeared to be liberated by his choice. No more would he have to pretend that he was still weighing the issues of civil unions vs. full-on marriage; recognition of those unions’ legality state to state; or how much religious institutions could choose not to allow such marriages.

With his simple affirmative statement, Obama put gay marriage on the front burner of the upcoming campaign.

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein pointed out that Obama’s latest stand marks a clear line in the sand with his challenger. Mitt Romney has been running as hard as he can from record as governor of one of the most liberal states in the country since the Iowa caucuses. As much as Obama looks principled, Romney risks appearing as the hypocrite.

"Coming out for marriage equality won’t change things in terms of how much the right wants Obama to lose, but it might just help him win with folks on our side, and that’s not a bad thing," said John Aravosis, editor of Americablog. In other words, those who never liked Obama always suspected he supported gay marriage, so his announcement didn’t much matter.

Firing Up LGBT Voters - And Donors

He has certainly made strides toward bridging what has come to be called the "enthusiasm gap"; not with his entire base, certainly, but with LGBT, LGBT-friendly and social-issue voters.

To be sure, other Democratic Party constituencies are still disenchanted with the president. Many black voters see his marriage stance as a betrayal to their church’s stance. Young people, who worked so hard for Obama in 2008, are more concerned about the lousy job market and crushing student loan debt. Many homeowners’ mortgages are worth more than their homes. And the Occupy Wall Street crowd has a slew of issues, from bank bailouts to a broken social net.

But LGBT voters have jumped onto the re-election bandwagon with both feet forward. A recent New York Times article reported that Gay Pride events are doubling as recruiting stations for election volunteers.


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