May 10th, 2012
11:58 AM ET

What do Obama's same-sex marriage views mean moving forward?

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, an interesting piece by  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."

[Updated at 11:47 a.m. ET] Multiple top Democrats said Thursday the president's senior aides are deeply annoyed with Vice President Joe Biden for forcing the conversation on same-sex marriage. One source said Biden has, in the past, counseled the president against announcing support for same-sex marriage - making the circumstances that much more frustrating.

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 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.

But LZ Granderson wonders whether Mitt Romney will take Obama's statement as a chance to turn the tide against the current president.

"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.

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[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.

CNN photos: 'Commitment' project focuses on long-term gay couples 

[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.”

While social issues may not turn the election, it certainly will influence voters. 

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."

soundoff (1,216 Responses)
  1. quieteye

    The comment below typifies a certain mindset.
    DadCoach: One and done Mr. Obama. Being gay is a choice just like being a politician.

    Consider a contrast to the following experience.
    I am straight and had a Catholic upbringing. I understood any thing else as cause for eternal fire. But I questioned why it existed at all more underground in the USA then and historically existent in other cultures. Choice? I could not approve of or understand why it existed in "God's universe".

    Before leaving for a trip to San Francisco I a bit about Jane Goodall. You may know she was mentored by anthropologist Louis Leaky had done what most all of us would not do – live and objectively study primates in their native habitat for more years then most people study themselves.

    In school I was taught we share 98% genetic makeup with primates. If correct and she recorded a 3% non-straight rate in primates – roughly corresponding to humans – then "choice" may not be an absolute truth people think it is. How to distinguish fears, biases or prejudices from scientific natural fact?

    Anyone is invited to show the above reasoning is wrong – scientifically.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      "Being gay is a choice just like being a politician."

      LOL if being gay is a choice, please explain how runs rampant in the animal kingdom.

      May 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bigot

    LOL the bible is full of STORIES created by MEN.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sad state of the union

    Marriage is a gift to join in union a man and woman in order to create and raise a family. Within that family unit, each member makes sacrifices to ensure values and virtues are taught to their children so in turn they can one day do the same. It is called the circle of life. Gays have no rights to get married. There is no benefit to society from it. If these people stopped living self-centered, and self gratifying lives and were guided by the natural balance of life, the world would not be in the sad state that it is today.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      if you knew anything about America, you would know that marriage is nothing more than a legal contract between two consenting adults. It has nothing to do with religion and actually has been around much longer than your man-written bible has.

      May 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • quieteye

      Who's to say what natural balance is? Is it the expectation of 50% divorce rate, broken families and homes that go with it from such a "gift"?

      And what about the naturalist studies of Jane Goodall with an observed 3% gay rate in primates. Within that 3% a measure of group stability by stable relationship is achieved. Who are you (or most voters it appears) to deny society – primate or human – such a stability and equality "gift"?

      Denying it is similar to reasoning that would have kept slavery legal, mixed-marriages illegal.

      May 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      " If these people stopped living self-centered, and self gratifying lives and were guided by the natural balance of life"

      ok, are you seriously trying to claim that they are only gay because they are self-centered and self-gratifying? *facepalm*

      and here is a shocker for can have kids without being married. shock horror!

      May 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nick Bruiser

    Yawn. Glad this has stretched into 4 different headlines over the past day. This is why I love CNN. It doesn't report news, just propaganda.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      are you suggesting that if we all went over to fox right now we wouldnt see this as a story?

      May 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jason

    Why does the churches have a say in this? Marriage is not only a Christian ordeal. Many people get married through courts, and a lot are Atheists. Seperation of church and state, and 2 consenting adults should be able to marry, the church should ZERO say in the matter.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Annette A. Nager

    I am not against anyone in how they want to live and I believe strongly we should find a way to make that happen. But even stronger I do not feel you should not have to change my marriage or my parents and grandparent to get what you want. It more than a word that you can changing in Webster dictionary how will you re-write our past to fit your new explanation. I feel you are taking away my freedom to get what you want the easy way. It is unfair to change what is on personal your belief and past to make yours right. Find another way make the civil union work and leave me alone.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Marriage is just a word! Why do you people get so bent out of shape over a word. This is about equal rights for everyone. It doesn't change the fact that your grandparents or parents loved each other. Marriage can be broken down to two categories, law and religion. We don't want to change your religion just the law.

      May 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bob

    I will give a million dollars for every person of legal age in this country that you can show is prohibited by law from getting married.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      every person that is currently already married.
      I'll take my money in large bills thanks.

      oh right, you were trying to be clever, sorry.

      May 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. The Hammer

    I do not understand this support for new rights for a mutable group. There are other consideration that should be considered. This is a chosen alternative lifestyle and ofcourse there is a quiet drive to push this lifestyle on kindergarten students as a "normal" curriculum. It was never about marriage, it is about getting the government to recognize an abnormal behavior and to force everyone to not just tolerate thier behavior but to force everone to consider it as normal. I will cast my vote to the lesser of two evil.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Hammer November.

      May 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • quieteye

      See references to Jane Goodall. She may rock your world.

      May 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. craig

    I never want to comment on these things because I know it is a waste of time. Everyone, including myself, has opinions that they know in their own heads are right. So really there is no point in posting because no one is going to concede to someone else's point and be like "yea your right, my whole life I have been wrong about this." But the bottom line for me on this topic is this. People are so close minded in this world. If you truly think gay marriage is a sin and the work of satan then I'm sorry but you are wrong. It has nothing to do with religion or God. This is the way people are born and if they had the choice I doubt they would choose to be gay. If you had the choice between living a life full of persecution or one free of that, why would you ever choose the former. I understand that there are some who want to be different, but if thats the case then why would they want equality for gay rights, I thought the point is they want to be different. In 50-100 gay people will be accepted as noble, equal and even religious members of society. If you disagree with that then you are just as bad as the bad as the people who persecuted Jesus who I'm sure you have hate for. People don't like change (specifically conservatives) and most will spew out as much hate in attempt to stop that change. If you just opened your mind and heart, even if it is to something that makes you uncomfortable, your life can be much happier and easier. Just take a step back and be a part of, or at least an observer, of the change that will inevitably happen regardless of your opinion that you thought was so right. History relies on change, so to think that the common consensus on gay marriage won't change is to think that history will stop.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • maianna

      what about jobs and economy ?

      May 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot


      Care to provide PROOF of your claims? Very doubtful you can...but answer me this....if being gay is a choice, explain why runs rampant in NATURE?

      May 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mike

    Obama is reaching out to the Republican gay majority still in the closset. When it is between Romney and Obama any gay or lesbian could have voted for Obama.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. LambChopz

    I say it is time to start a revolution, and this is a great start.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BCW - NYC

    USA is moving forward to become a nation of equality and human rights. There is no place in this great country for Bigots. I am so grateful to have Obama as my President who care about ALL Americans. Horray!

    May 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • dale

      without jobs and solid economy there will be no human rights

      May 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • coorslight

      I am very disappointed with Obama. How can he call himself a christian?

      May 10, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. FLIndpendent

    I'm not sure how this will play out in the election as there are still so many close-minded people in our country, however President Obama understands that the world is quickly evolving and if our society doesn't as well we are going to be left in a dust heap. It was interesting that he talked about his girls having friends with gay couple parents and that helped him with his understanding because it will be the younger generation that will finally bring our country into the 21st century. It will probably take a few more generations for the narrow mindedness, bigotry and racism to be minimized but we are making great strides. If nothing else, this President will go down in history as one of the best and most transformative!

    May 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • coorslight

      It's not racism. As a black man I take a offense when Gays are compared to Blacks or other Races. I can't pretend to be white. I can't wipe off the skin tone. It's me. Gays choose to be gay. They stop it if they want to.

      May 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Terry

    Bravo Mr. can any citizen of the US think that we all shouldn't have the same rights under the law regardless of our differences. That is what our founding fathers were doing when they formed this Govm'nt.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. LoriC

    I LOVE my President! If there was a way to make you President for life, I'd vote for you!

    May 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
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