Open Thread: The Political Consequences of Obama's Gay Marriage Announcement

Today's starter topic: What are the political implications of President Obama revealing his support for gay marriage? In terms of fund-raising, it appears that it will be helpful to him. Former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel declared that "gays are the next Jews of fundraising" and it's well-known by now how many rich gay Democrats have witheld financial support from Obama in protest of their idea that he hasn't done enough for them.

Outside of the money game, Obama's revelation of his long-held position in favor of gay marriage legalization isn't likely to be as helpful to him or Democrats generally. Democratic senators up for reelection have already distanced themselves from Obama's pronouncement. North Carolina, a state which had voted for Obama in 2008, just last week passed an amendment to its constitution banning gay marriage.

The Associated Press has a good piece out today on the possible state-by-state implications. Besides, North Carolina, several swing states have taken measures banning gay marriage:

• Colorado: Voters passed a referendum in 2006 banning same-sex marriage. Last week, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper recalled legislators to consider legislation allowing civil unions.

• Florida: Voters passed a referendum in 2008 making state-recognized marriage between a man and a woman.

• Iowa: The Iowa Supreme Court in 2009 unanimously struck down the state's statutory ban on gay marriage. Opponents of the decision mounted a campaign that ousted three of the justices in a 2010 retention vote.

• Nevada: The state adopted a constitutional amendment in 2002 banning gay marriage.

• New Hampshire: A legislative effort failed narrowly this year to repeal a 2007 law allowing state-recognized same-sex partnerships.

• North Carolina: A referendum passed by a wide margin Tuesday banning gay marriage.

• Ohio: The state passed a referendum in 2004 banning gay marriage.

• Virginia: It ratified a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage in 2006.

Then there is the question of black voters, the majority of whom oppose same-sex marriage. No one expects them to suddenly turn around and vote for Mitt Romney, however, Obama's decision to support a political position so at odds with traditional Christianity will likely make some black pastors less likely to support him publicly.

The White House is clearly concerned about the potential of this happening which is why it set up a conference call just two hours following his announcement between the president and a number of black clergy:

About two hours after declaring his support for same-sex marriage last week, President Obama gathered eight or so African-American ministers on a conference call to explain himself. He had struggled with the decision, he said, but had come to believe it was the right one.

The ministers, though, were not all as enthusiastic. A vocal few made it clear that the president’s stand on gay marriage might make it difficult for them to support his re-election. [...]

In taking on same-sex marriage, Mr. Obama made a point of couching his views in religious terms. “We’re both practicing Christians,” the president said of his wife and himself in the ABC News interview in which he discussed his new views. “And obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others.”

He added that what he thought about was “not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf but it’s also the golden rule, you know? Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

After the interview, Mr. Obama hit the phones. Among those he called was one of the religious leaders he considers a touchstone, the Rev. Joel C. Hunter, the pastor of a conservative megachurch in Florida.

“Some of the faith communities are going to be afraid that this is an attack against religious liberty,” Mr. Hunter remembered telling the president.

“Absolutely not,” Mr. Obama insisted. “That’s not where we’re going, and that’s not what I want.”

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Matthew Sheffield's picture