COMMENTARY | Reuters reports that on May 9 President Barack Obama finally announced that he personally supports gay marriage, but he said that it should be up to each state whether or not to legalize gay marriage. Obama wants same-sex couples to have the same rights and benefits as married heterosexual couples, and he initially thought civil unions would solve that problem. Obama’s announcement comes less than a week after vice president Joe Biden came out in support of gay marriage, and said he would support gay marriage on a federal level. As a Republican voter, here is how this announcement from Obama might hurt his re-election campaign, and why this decision is historically important.
There has not been a sitting president in the history of America to openly voice his support for gay marriage, so this is really a historic moment. It is really no surprise that Obama supports gay marriage, but this is the first time he has admitted out loud that he supports it. Obama claims it was not a decision made for political gain, but what other reason would he have to go public with his personal belief? It was very interesting that Obama chose to say that it was up to each state whether or not to allow gay marriage, since he has been pushing for healthcare reform, and several states have sued due to the fact it is unconstitutional. Obama has now opened the door for future presidents to give their personal opinions on hot social issues, which might end up dividing the country even more.
Openly supporting gay marriage might significantly damage Obama when it comes to the election, since 30 out of 50 states have outlawed gay marriage. Obama is going against most of the states with this decision, which is fine since it is his personal belief, but I worry on whether he would try to issue an executive order to make it legal everywhere. On May 8, a new Gallup poll was released, which showed that 50 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be legal. The poll also showed that 48 percent of Americans were opposed to gay marriage, which proves that Americans are still quite divided on the issue of gay marriage, possibly due to religious reasons.
A number of independents, Republicans, and even Democrats are opposed to gay marriage, which means Obama is possibly alienating millions of voters in crucial swing states, while appealing to a select few. Romney has been steadfast in his opposition of gay marriage, and reiterated his belief that marriage was between a man and a woman after Obama announced his stance. Obama is going to lose a lot of support among the religious community for supporting gay marriage, and might also face backlash with donors who are more socially conservative. Although I am a Republican, I support gay marriage 100 percent, but I do not think a sitting president needs to comment on social policies that should be handled by each state individually.