President Obama's announcement that he now supports same-sex marriage has sparked a global discussion about the issue and what his statements mean for politics and the upcoming election, cultural views, the economy and public perception. There has been a running dialogue as politicians, public figures and others weigh in on the meaning of Obama's announcement.
We'll bring you all of that throughout the day with the latest strands of this story. Let us know what you think about the announcement by having your voice heard on iReport, and leave us your comments below. We'll dig through them and pull out some of the best comments from you as well.
[Updated at 11:58 a.m. ET] Over at Slate.com, an interesting piece by Linda Hirshman points out "Why Obama is able to endorse gay marriage in a way a white Democratic president couldn’t."
The article takes a look at the long history of presidents and figures who have made claims about trying to help the gay community, but never got traction or were told to shy away from it. Hirshman also issues a reminder: It was Colin Powell who actually slammed then-President Bill Clinton's attempts to repeal the exclusion of gays in the military. At the time Powell said gays couldn't use racial bias as a reason to rise up against the expulsion.
But these days, race and sexuality have been large parts of America's changing winds when it comes to equality.
So what's changed? And why Obama? And does it really help or hurt if he's black? Hirshman says yes, history and racial issues led our first black president to a place where he was able to make this statement in a profound way.
"A simple thought experiment reveals the issue: Try to imagine Don King in black churches exhorting congregations to vote against Barack Obama over gay marriage. Not going to happen," she writes. "In this way, the president was uniquely suited among Democratic politicians to advance the issue (just as Powell could have done in 1993). Until today, Obama’s mealy-mouthed and harmful public statements on gay marriage looked suspiciously Powell-esque. But as happens now and then to Barack Obama, history gave him an opportunity no one else could seize, and he did."
Another source said the recent events gave renewed life to old jokes and flippant remarks like, "Hello? Does he know this is the Obama presidency not the Biden presidency?"
None of these sources said they believed it would create a lasting rift between the West Wing and the vice president's office – because Biden has gone off script before and will do it again.
[Updated at 11:39 a.m. ET] Some columnists and voters have said everyone needs to hold off on the congratulations for Obama. After all, they say, he merely made his viewpoint heard but isn't actually doing anything to change equality for members of the LGBT community. Many are pushing for him to go even further than just saying what he personally supports.
Ben Adler, writing for Reuters, says that if Obama really wants to do something for the LGBT community he should push for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA would essentially ban discrimination in the workplace based on your sexual orientation.
"If Obama gave a campaign speech in which he called on Congress to pass ENDA and demanded that Romney do the same, he would stick Romney between a rock and a hard place," he wrote.
[Updated at 11:19 a.m. ET] The pundits have had plenty to say following Obama's announcement. And it spurred a slew of statements from politicians and conservative and liberal groups.
But one of the biggest movements came in the social media world where everyday people around the world, politicians and celebrities let it rip in 140 characters about how they felt.
It is perhaps a quick way to check the pulse of the public's view of Obama's announcement. Here are some of the best, funniest, most poignant or interest tweets we've seen.
We stand w/Pres. Obama - love doesn't have a color, love doesn't care if you're gay or straight. Love doesn't discriminate #MarriageEquality—
Antonio Villaraigosa (@villaraigosa) May 09, 2012
Joseph (@Joseph_MSU) May 10, 2012
Those against gay marriage: in 20 yrs you'll be the villains in an Oscar-nominated movie about the gay rights struggle. Just an FYI.—
Devin Faraci (@devincf) May 10, 2012
Flip-flopping is when you change positions for clear and obvious political expediency. Like Obama on drilling or Romney on everything.—
Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) May 10, 2012
Feels to me that today, Obama became the president America elected three years ago.—
Othman Laraki (@othman) May 10, 2012
We would also be remiss if we didn't point out how quickly after Obama's announcement a new Tumblr popped up. Following on the success of several other blogs filled with gifs and photos such as TextFromHillary, right after Obama's statement that he supported same-sex marriage a new one came to fill the void left by the faux texts of Secretary Clinton: When Obama Endorsed Marriage Equality.
[Updated at 11:10 a.m. ET] Will Obama's support for same-sex marriage swing the election towards social issues? It's hard to say. The election cycle has been mostly dominated by a frustration among Americans with the current state of the economy. With the number of unemployed people still at a rate deemed unacceptable and with homeowners still struggling to unload homes often worth markedly less than years ago, it is no doubt it's considered the number one issue in this race to the White House by most voters and our poll of readers.
"Remember, Republicans characterized the war on women as a Democratic strategy to divert attention from the "real issue" of the economy," Granderson wrote. "Over the next couple of days we'll see if the GOP will be as dismissive with gay rights. Or will the fact that in 2004, George W. Bush successfully used discrimination against the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender (GLBT) community to motivate his base be too juicy a strategy for Romney and the gang to pass up?"
Granderson argues that Obama's move separates him from Romney in the biggest way - his conviction - and moves him into the class of an Abraham Lincoln, FDR, John F. Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson in the realm of presidents:
"Men who risked a great deal personally to move the country forward socially," Granderson wrote. "And given the fact that he can point to the 12 consecutive months of job losses before taking office and the 26 consecutive months (and counting) of job growth since 2010, there's no reason to believe the economy will cease to be his campaign's top focus. As it should be. We'll find out if the GOP agrees."
[Updated at 10:45 a.m. ET] President Obama's election was in large part boosted by the youth vote as well as from African-Americans who went to the polls hoping to see the first black president elected. But when it comes to same-sex marriage, the African-American community is a divided one. And Time contributor Touré, author of "Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? A Look At What It Means To Be Black Now," wonders whether this most recent announcement could damage Obama's allure in the South, in heavily religious states and with black Americans.
"With blacks lagging behind the country on marriage equality but still a crucial bloc for Obama, the White House has made a courageous bet that black voters won’t punish him and that being on the right side of history will not eventually hurt him," Touré wrote. "Obama has seemed to want to overtly support marriage equality for a while — a year ago he said gays 'are our brothers, our sisters, our children, our cousins, our friends, our coworkers, and they’ve got to be treated like every other American. … I think we’re moving in a direction of greater equality and — and I think that’s a good thing.' ”
Touré wonders whether Obama will be able to pull off the delicate balancing act of trying to be a president who follows his beliefs instead of doing things that ensure his re-election.
"Does it mean Obama would rather stand on principle and lose than be a politician and win? Or perhaps he sees this as part of a victory strategy that rebrands himself as the courageous politician who will take hard stands and will stand up for the people," he wrote.
[Updated at 10:25 a.m. ET] Many of our iReporters and commenters have had strong reactions to Obama's announcement. We posed the question to iReporters: What would you say to Obama about his remarks?
John Richardson said he was thankful for Obama "coming out of the closet" for gay Americans. But he questioned Obama's statements that same-sex marriage is ultimately a states' rights issue over a civil rights one.
He referenced North Carolina's recent vote to ban same-sex marriage and wondered what Obama's comments meant to a gay couple in North Carolina.
"They didn't decide to be gay, and they definitely didn't decide to be born in North Carolina. In my opinion, leaving it to the states to decide forces the gay community to choose between the lesser of two evils: leaving your home or leaving your principles."
Richardson said this could be the biggest move Obama makes if he does it correctly.
"You have the opportunity here to take a historically profound stance," he said. "You could be the president that brought equality to all."
Richardson brings up an interesting point about states' rights. Many have varying view points on same-sex marriage as well as civil unions. CNN's Tom Foreman breaks down what each state's laws are.
[Updated at 9:56 a.m. ET] The reach of Obama's announcement has gone much farther than just the United States. The issue of same-sex marriage is one that reaches global proportions as well, and in some cases, Obama's words have led campaigners to push for marriage equality worldwide.
Obama's decision to openly endorse same-sex marriage won plaudits from campaigners worldwide who have been pushing for more liberal laws since the first same-sex couples walked down the aisle in the Netherlands in 2001.
[Updated at 9:36 a.m. ET] Frida Ghitis, a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review, wrote in a column for CNN that Obama's endorsement does not undo the fact that he has a mixed record on gay rights. It's a problem that has led the gay community has derided him for his "cowardice" on gay issues, she says.
Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, and author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television," said that how Obama's move plays with the gay community may depend on whether he has the actions to back up his words. While Obama's team deserves credit for the political maneuver, she said, there's plenty of federal discrimination that has to end.
"Obama's claims that he cares about equality for gays have not seemed sincere. Now that he has emphatically stated that same-sex marriage should be legal, he ought to make passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act a priority," Ghitis writes. "He should take a stand personally, not through press releases and spokesmen, against discrimination. He should support the bill that calls for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Now he should follow up his landmark statement with actions that will have practical, not just symbolic impact.
"And while that will go a long way, this race is a marathon, not a sprint," she says.
"The decision to at long last finish the evolution and come out in support of gay marriage is a major step. But, Mr. President, when it comes to fighting discrimination, there are principles to defend, promises to keep and miles to go before you sleep."
[Updated at 9:26 a.m. ET] Benefits, benefits. benefits. One of the big issues at the heart of the same-sex marriage debate has often been the inequality not just to get married but to get the benefits to go along with it. Will any of that change after Obama's announcement?
CNNMoney's Blake Ellis reports that advocates are hopeful that Obama's decision will bring gay couples one step closer to equal treatment on taxes, Social Security and other important financial matters.
His decision, advocates said, could help spur support for the eventual repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that reserves marriage for a man and a woman.
The law, known as DOMA, is at the root of differences in how gay couples are treated under federal law.
"Just because the president comes out and stands on the right side of history doesn't mean Congress will move faster" to repeal DOMA, said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "But this will go far to raise the visibility of the economic inequities of same-sex couples."
[Updated at 9:16 a.m. ET] Charles Kaiser, author of "The Gay Metropolis" and "1968 in America," wrote in a column for CNN that he believes giving support to same-sex marriage is Obama's most courageous move yet.
Kaiser, a former reporter for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and a former press critic for Newsweek, said his stance on gay rights has an effect similar to Civil Rights Act.
"Coming after his successful strategy to get Congress to repeal don't ask, don't tell so that gays and lesbians can serve openly in the military and the decision of his Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in federal courts, he has now done nearly as much for gay people as Lyndon Johnson did for African-Americans with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965," he wrote. "People like me, who were among his most passionate supporters in 2008, felt a sense of gigantic relief. The man who seemed like such a courageous candidate four years ago finally sounded like a genuinely courageous president."
[Updated at 9:03 a.m. ET] Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage on Wednesday outraged conservative Christian leaders, who vowed to use it as an organizing tool in the 2012 elections, but the move is also activating the liberal base, raising big questions about who gains and loses politically.
“It cuts both ways: It activates both Democratic and Republican base voters,” said John Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron. “The most likely effect is that it makes an already close election even closer.”
CNN's Belief Blog takes a look at how the move might galvanize conservatives and those who are against same-sex marriage to help Republican candidate Mitt Romney, but it could also help Obama gain critical support from those who see the cultural landscape changing and agree with his views.
[Updated at 9:00 a.m. ET] Let's talk about the elephant in the room. It's an election year. Many pundits and members have questioning how much of Obama's statement was a political move to gain ground on Mitt Romney? And what does the likely GOP presidential nominee think about all of this?
After Obama's announcement, Romney reaffirmed his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. The presumptive GOP nominee said he believed states should have the ability to extend some rights to gay couples, short of marriage.
[Updated at 8:57 a.m. ET] Much of the early focus has been on Obama's changing views on same-sex marriage. Have his views changed or "evolved"? Is he flip-flopping on the issue? When did he make the decision to make his viewpoint heard? How has he felt about the issue in the past? And why did he decide to say something now?
To help put things in perspective, there's no better way than looking at the very words Obama has used over the past few years.
[Updated at 8:52 a.m. ET] President Barack Obama's announcement that he now supports same-sex marriage came sooner than planned as a result of comments made by Vice President Joe Biden, he said in an interview broadcast Thursday.
"I had already made a decision that we were going to probably take this position before the election and before the convention," Obama told ABC's "Good Morning America," referring to the Democratic National Convention in September.
Biden "probably got out a little bit over his skis, but out of generosity of spirit," the president said.
He added that he would have "preferred to have done this in my own way, on my own terms," but "all's well that ends well."