To get reaction to President Obama's flip-flop on gay marriage, Thursday's NBC Today brought on openly gay left-wing MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who quickly attacked Republicans on the issue: "It's a very, very conservative Republican Party on this issue....Mitt Romney, who wants to roll back gay rights nationwide."
Co-host Ann Curry helped Maddow along by asking series of questions from the left: "...[Obama's] leaving it to the states, there's no movement to do something federally, in terms of making a change, I mean, what actually changes?....Is it clear, though, that this will not satisfy gay marriage activists?...that there's going to be an increase in their demands to push this further forward? Have it be on the platforms for the Democratic Party?"
Curry then bolstered the case for Obama changing his mind and supporting gay marriage: "...this comes as there's increasing support in this country for gay marriage rights. There's a poll from 2004. And it found that only 30% of the population was in favor of gay marriage. And now there's a new poll that finds that 49%, a majority, favors gay marriage. So to what degree is this really just smart politics by the President?"
Note to Curry: 49% is not a majority. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll she cited showed that as of March 2012, 49% favored gay marriage while 40% opposed. 49% would be a plurality, not a majority.
In part, Maddow responded: "...for the President to have made this decision to say this is my personal view, I think is an act of political bravery because there's no clear – there's no clear way to say that this is going to help him politically."
Later in the show, as part of a liberal panel discussion of the topic, openly gay CNBC host Suze Orman cheered Obama's move: "This is something that should have been done, in my opinion anyway – obviously, I would think that – a long time ago."
NBC couldn't seem to find any opponents of gay marriage to react to the President's announcement.
Here is a full transcript of the May 10 exchange:
ANN CURRY: Well, Rachel Maddow is the host of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC and she joins us now. Rachel, good morning to you.
RACHEL MADDOW: Hi, Ann.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Obama vs. Romney; Will President's Gay Marriage Stance Change Race?]
CURRY: You've called the President's announcement historic in civil rights. But given what we've just heard from Chuck Todd, that this – he's leaving it to the states, there's no movement to do something federally, in terms of making a change, I mean, what actually changes?
MADDOW: Well, you know, it's – I think that symbolic value is hard to see in the moment. I think this is something we will know more in retrospect in terms of what this milestone – just for knowing that the President believes this and he's waiting to see it – what that means.
But this is not a given that this would happen. I mean, think about what's going on in the rest of politics. George W. Bush was for civil unions. The current Republican de facto nominee Mitt Romney is against civil unions. The states that have recognized same-sex marriage rights would have those rights overturned federally by the constitutional amendment that the Republican Party supports.
I mean, this is not something that is – where everything is all marching in the same direction. I mean, Mitt Romney is right where Rick Santorum is on gay rights issues. It's a very, very conservative Republican Party on this issue. And I'm not sure that it's clear what the electoral impact will be given the way that states keep voting against these rights when they have the choice.
CURRY: Is it clear, though, that this will not satisfy gay marriage activists? In other words, that this – that there's going to be an increase in their demands to push this further forward?
MADDOW: I think that-
CURRY: Have it be on the platforms for the Democratic Party?
MADDOW: I think that – I think that there's a very good chance it will be part of the platform for the Democratic Party. I think the prospect that that was going to be some sort of divisive fight or something they really wanted to avoid is now over because of yesterday's announcement. It will be in the party platform. What that means practically, I don't know.
I think that it's interesting. I'm an openly gay person who works in the news media covering this but also feeling this as a gay person. The thing that I'm realizing is that gay people have very practical feelings about this. That this is about our lives. This is about our families. This is about whether or not we're hurt by policy made in the public arena. And so the symbolic value, I think, is important and does mean a lot to us. But mostly we want practical policies that help us.
CURRY: It's interesting in seeing how all this came about, this announcement in a hastily arranged interview on the heels of Joe Biden's comments on Meet the Press.
CURRY: You do get the sense that Joe Biden forced the President's hand on this. But I want to show you this poll, because it's really interesting to also note that this comes as there's increasing support in this country for gay marriage rights. For example, take a look at this poll. There's a poll from 2004. And it found that only 30% of the population was in favor of gay marriage. And now there's a new poll that finds that 49%, a majority, favors gay marriage. So to what degree is this really just smart politics by the President?
MADDOW: Well it – again, it's very hard to say, because as you've seen those poll numbers go up, and it's consistent across all polls and really over – it's an accelerating progression toward more accepting views in the public, but every time you put these issues up to a statewide vote, they lose. I mean, I think in civil rights, generally speaking, when you ask for a majority vote on minority rights, generally minorities do not fare well. So you have to look at the fact that this came right after the North Carolina vote on Amendment One, a constitutional amendment to ban gay rights. That was an overwhelming vote against gay rights in that state.
And so for the President to have made this decision to say this is my personal view, I think is an act of political bravery because there's no clear – there's no clear way to say that this is going to help him politically. I think the gay community broadly supported the President anyway. They've pressured him on some things certainly. But it's not like they were going to go to Mitt Romney, who wants to roll back gay rights nationwide. So this was something that the President did, I think as a matter of conscience. And I think it's sort of – we're in a chips fall where they may moment.
CURRY: Alright. Well, on that note, thank you, Rachel, for being here this morning.
MADDOW: Thank you. Thanks.
CURRY: And you can watch The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9 Eastern and Pacific Time here on MSNBC.