President Obama’s Marriage Equality Stance: Does it Hurt His Re Election Chances?


On May 9, 2012, President Obama made history by affirming to reporter Robin Roberts that he supports Marriage Equality. This came after Vice President Biden’s latest in a long line of infamous gaffes, where he said that he was “very comfortable” with the idea of two men or two women getting married on Meet the Press. While White House advisors tried to backtrack the Vice President’s words and say that his stance was exactly the same as the President’s, and that he was still “evolving”- a stance that had been frustrating the LGBT community for the last 3 12 years- it was too late. Joe Biden had outed the administration as being fully supportive of Marriage Equality, and the President had to follow suit, or risk serious backlash.


The LGBT community has long believed that President Obama supported Marriage Equality. In fact, there was a document from his days as a US Senator with his signature where it was affirmed. However, in the 2008 Presidential election, holding that official stance would have been a campaign killer. So, instead, he said he was “evolving,”citing his personal Christian religious views as the reason for his struggle on the issue of Marriage Equality, while taking other pro LGBT stances and avoiding discussion of Marriage Equality at all costs.


There is no doubt that President Obama has done more for the LGBT community than any other sitting President. He secured hospital visitation rights for same sex couples, abolished Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the discriminatory law that forbade LGBT individuals to be open about their identities while serving in the military, sent his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to affirm that foreign aid would be denied to countries participating in LGBT human rights abuses, ordered the Department of Justice to stop Defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and now he and his administration have taken a firm, affirmative stance on the issue of Marriage Equality. However, the big question now is this: How does this affect his re-election chances?


Many people, while happy that he took the stance after all this time, remain worried. The most obvious question is, of course, the one of how many votes his Marriage Equality stance will cost him. After all, key elements of his base have been notorious for opposing LGBT rights, especially Marriage Equality.  People warned that he would lose the vote of his Black Church supporters, who were a huge factor in his historical 2008 win. However, thus far, this has not been the case. Sure, there have been influential sects, such as the Black Church Initiative, who have officially opposed President Obama’s stance on Marriage Equality. However, the NAACP officially voted to support President Obama, as well as his Marriage Equality stance, and influential black leaders, such as Reverend Al Sharpton, have come out in support of Marriage Equality, even prior to President Obama’s announcement. To that end, all in all, it has not been the divisive voting catastrophe that people predicted. In fact,, there have been some ministers who have said that on this one issue, they are prepared to take an “agree to disagree” stance and still support President Obama’s re election efforts.


The Marriage Equality issue was a gamble, no doubt. Many Americans still oppose people of the same sex having the right to marry based upon deeply ingrained cultural, moral, and religious beliefs. That is not the sort of thing that changes overnight. However, with President Obama, perhaps it can come as close to changing overnight as realistically possible.
Ever since President Obama affirmed that he and his administration support Marriage Equality, a strange thing has happened. Rather than the expected backlash from some of his key, crucial voting elements, there has been a rise in open support. For the first time in American history, more than half of Americans say they support Marriage Equality. The African American community, who has, of course, been a key voting block of support for  President Obama throughout, has seen an astounding increase in open support for Marriage Equality since the President came out with his stance on the issue in an interview with Robin Roberts. So much so, in fact, that articles detailing this remarkable effect have been written in notable publications, both LGBT and mainstream. Newsweek even published a now infamous cover with President Obama in a rainbow halo, dubbing him the first gay President.


Some people may be shocked by this development, but I am not. President Obama has been a remarkable leader who has been able to do more for the LGBT rights cause in his 3 ½ years in office than we have been able to accomplish under any other leadership since the Stonewall Riots in 1969. He has an amazing effect on people, and this Marriage Equality issue is no different. The people many have believed to be virulently homophobic to the core, the African American community, have taken President Obama’s lead and, on the whole, stopped opposing LGBT rights. They proved that they are not an inherently anti- gay community, and, as someone who is both African American and gay, I am very proud of these remarkable changes.


President Obama was, I believe, just what we needed to achieve true Liberty and Justice for all, LGBT Americans, too.
By Shannon Barber; “Changing the world, one mind at a time.”