Does Obama believe in gay marriages?

Probably.  President Obama told ABC News:  It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.

Questions:

1. Why did Obama say this in your opinion?

2. Will it influence the campaign and how?

Answers:

Kenneth Wald, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Florida

1. Let me say that I think the President said it because he believes it. Remember, he was a professor of constitutional law and has an expansive vision of the Bill of Rights. Most educated people now support this policy so I think he has long believed in it.

2. It’s been assumed he didn’t say this out loud in the past because he knew the election was going to turn on some swing states that have lots of conservative religious voters—North Carolina, Virginia and Florida, among others. Some people thought, wrongly, that he was worried that his core constituency of African Americans would also be unhappy because a majority of African Americans dislikes gay marriage. I don’t frankly know why he came out in favor of it except, perhaps, for the need to appear to be taking positions that will energize the left. It further puts distance between the Democrats and Republicans and, I think, paints the Republicans as reactionary among independents and young voters. That’s nothing more than a guess on my part.

Jean Schroedel, Professor, Department of Politics and Policy, Dean of the School of Politics and Economics, Claremont Graduate University

This is absolutely huge with respect to the upcoming election. I am sure that President Obama’s campaign team has run data showing which sectors of the electorate will be mobilized by this statement—both on the favorable and unfavorable side. My strong suspicion is that the numbers show that those who are strongly opposed to gay marriage were not going to support him anyhow. The one group that vehemently opposes gay marriage, but will still vote overwhelmingly for Obama is the African American community. The black church is very socially conservative, but they will not desert the first African American president.

What this should do, however, is mobilize the youngest cohort of the electorate, who are big advocates of gay rights. That should bring real energy and enthusiasm, which has thus far been absent from the Democratic side in this campaign.

Ken Sherrill, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, Hunter College , CUNY

Obama said it for many reasons. Basically, he said it because what he honestly believed – and most people knew that’s what he believed. The longer he delayed, the more he undermined his own credibility and did not seem like a strong leader. Thus, I think it helps him and strengthens his campaign. It gets him more campaign contributors and mobilizes the young activists who carried him to victory in 2008. Today’s Washington Post reports that about one in six of Obama’s bundlers (people who raise major campaign contributions) are lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

Clyde Wilcox, Professor, Department of Government, Georgetown University

First, maybe he said it because he believes it.

Because he wants to be on the right side of history.

Or maybe he said it to mobilize young people.  This is one issue where young people in both parties are pretty strong, and Obama had an enthusiasm gap on this.

He has a number of gay fundraisers and donors.  And activists.

It is hard to say how it will cut.  Most of the people who oppose same-sex marriage oppose Obama, but they might now be more enthusiastic about voting for a Mormon.

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