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Obama's gay marriage support riles religious conservatives, but political effects not yet clear
President Barack Obama addressing a gay rights group in 2011.
May 9th, 2012
04:55 PM ET

Obama's gay marriage support riles religious conservatives, but political effects not yet clear

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – U.S. President Barack 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.”

In an interview with ABC News, Obama said, "At a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."

The announcement puts Obama at odds with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who opposes same-sex marriage and who voiced that opposition in an interview on Wednesday.

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"Considering that 10 of the 16 battleground states have marriage amendments that could be overturned by the president's new policy position on marriage, today's announcement almost ensures that marriage will again be a major issue in the presidential election,” said Tony Perkins, president of the the conservative Family Research Council.

“The president has provided a clear contrast between him and his challenger, Mitt Romney," Perkins continued. "Romney, who has signed a pledge to support a marriage protection amendment to the U.S. Constitution, may have been handed the key to social conservative support by President Obama."

Obama stressed in the interview that his support was personal and that he would leave the issue of marriage to the states. But many conservatives chafed at the idea that the president's personal views would not affect public policy.

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, released a statement saying the president's comments were "deeply saddening." Dolan's statement continued, "I pray for the President every day, and will continue to pray that he and his Administration act justly to uphold and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

Bishop Harry Jackson, the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church outside of Washington, DC, said that "I think the president has been in this place for awhile and that he chose this time because he thought that it might shift the balance of power." Jackson has long campaigned against same-sex marriage.

Ralph Reed, a top organizer among religious conservatives, said Obama’s announcement was a “gift to the Romney campaign.”

Romney, a Mormon who has evolved to a more conservative position on hot button social issues, has struggled with his party's largely evangelical conservative base in the primaries. But Reed said Obama’s gay marriage support would help Romney in many battleground states.

“The Obama campaign doesn’t have to worry about New York and California,” Reed said. “They have to worry about Ohio, Florida and Virginia and I don’t’ see evidence that it’s a winning issue in those states.”

Green said that public opinion about gay marriage has been shifting dramatically in recent years, with some polls showing more support than opposition. Green said that in many battlegrounds, including Ohio, it's impossible to nail down current public opinion on same-sex marriage. A Gallup Poll conducted this month found that 50% of American adults support legal recognition of same-sex marriage, while 48% oppose it.

Reed noted that same-sex marriage bans have passed in virtually every state they have appeared on the ballot, including in North Carolina on Tuesday. That’s a typically red state that Obama won in 2008 and that is the site of the Democrat's 2012 convention.

Many liberal groups were ecstatic over Obama’s support for gay marriage. “Congratulations, Mr. President, for making history today by becoming the first sitting president to explicitly support marriage for same-sex couples,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

In his interview with ABC, Obama talked about squaring his decision with his personal religious faith.

“We are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others,” Obama said, referencing his wife, Michelle.

“But, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule,” he said. “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

One key Obama constituency that may be angered by his Wednesday announcement is African-Americans, who tend to be more religious than whites. Though they hew heavily Democratic, African-Americans are generally conservative on social issues like gay marriage.

- CNN's Eric Marrapodi, Shannon Travis, and Mary Snow contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Gay marriage

soundoff (2,108 Responses)
  1. Hank Danger

    It's. About. Time. I'm proud that our president actually took a stand and said something that may or may not be damaging in an election year. It's completely unfathomable that in the "land of the free" people can't marry the person they love in some states. It's rather embarrassing. It's hard to believe that humans still believe in the fairy tales of boats containing 2 of every animal and people walking on water, but then again it was hard to believe that W. Bush was voted in and then to a 2nd term. If you are going to believe those things, believe in the "thou shall not judge' part as well and mind your own business and stay out of others lives and marriage choices.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Ting

      Bush: "If English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Texas schoolchildren”

      May 10, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • ReligionLOL

      enjoyed would read again

      May 10, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  2. Two

    Chicks?

    YES INDEED! Oh Heck yeah!!

    May 10, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  3. Oh Yeah

    Two chicks? Oh yeah!

    May 10, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  4. Dan

    .............. And in other news, we continue to spend money we do not have.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Thanks mostly to bush.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  5. SuperDave

    I would like to think that as a man Obama made this change of opinion as a thoughtful person. But he is a politician. So I do not believe that he did this because of what he thought, but to only get votes and differentiate himself from Romney. And judging by what I am reading here, you fools don't see it that way. We are all political pawns. Its is scary that you actually vote.
    And regarding the comments about hate; this is really an issue of description. It is like someone trying to call a bicycle a car because it has wheels, a seat, and can be ridden on the road. What gays want to do is change the meaning of "marriage". Just pick another term for crying out loud! Then they can have all the rights of couples joined in unuion. Then none of this would matter.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • momoya

      You base your judgment on the fact that Obama is a "politician.". Do you make similar judgments about Romney because he is a "politician?"

      May 10, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Evangenital

      SuperDave, I think if gay people called their union "Bathtub" conservatives would still be enraged conservatives. Look at NC., not even union or domestic partnership, gay or straight allowed.

      Bigots will be bigots.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • Just sayin'

      It looks to me like there are many definitions for marriage:

      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/marriage?s=t

      May 10, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  6. growup

    Sooner or later we the people must grow up, become more reasonable and a more critical thinking nation. First, there IS a separation between church and state. ALL of us have the right to the pursuit of happiness. So it doens't matter how much of a Christian the President may or may not be...the point is that his job is making sure that we all have that basic right, not as Christians but as human beings. If Gays want to be married, let them. I wish them the best. THis country is set up so that anyone can have any believe they chose as long as they don't restrict the rights of others. Seems to be the great Christians are restricting the rights of others. Perfect opportunity to litigate.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • fryuujin

      yup, but to the right-wing nuts, your not happy unless your doing what they think is right. Their idea of right is to hate anyone who doesn't do exactly what they want.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Hank Danger

      Word.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:26 am |
  7. seedenbetter

    Praise Jesus! We True Christians® are gonna make bible the law of the land verse by verse. Next on the ballot, what you MUST do with unruly children per the below commandment. If y'all don't like it, tough! Glory!

    Deut. 21:18-21 – If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him . . . and all the men of his city shall stone him with stones that he die.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      I can quote nonsense too:

      “If a man’s testicIes are crushed or his pe nis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.”
      –Deuteronomy 23

      May 10, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • growup

      To seedenbetter – you are so right! Gosh how can these people half way pick up a believe and then try to force it on the rest of us, and not follow "their" letter of the law. Maybe they should just go on and get together with the Muslims and combine the Bible with their Sharia law and make that the law of the land and we'd be similar to Afghanistan. Oh lovely can't wait!

      May 10, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • codepwned

      That made laugh so hard I choked on my biscuit.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Dan

      The bible pretty much is the world's first choose your own adventure book.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Great one Honey Badger Don't Care.

      Adding that to the collection of insane quotes.

      Thanks

      May 10, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • Vidyashanti

      Is this not violence? Is this love? We claim Jesus stands for love and teach violence. We quote from Qumran and call all names. Are we right?

      May 10, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Old Testament penalty = “and all the men of his city shall stone him with stones that he die.”

      New Testament penalty = John 8:7 “…..He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

      May 10, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @seedenbetter
      We'll listen to your Old Testament nonsense when you start living by all the rules in Leviticus.
      Otherwise, wear your poly/cotton blended shirts, have a cheeseburger and thank Jesus that you're no longer bound by those absurd proscriptions.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  8. Mattski

    I love it when Christians get all riled up over politics. They always start sounding so un-Christian.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • JR

      So, what does Christian sound like?

      May 10, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • fryuujin

      and so many are 100% GOPs, the party of hate. they hate gays, hate anyone who wants an abortion, hate immigants, hate anyone who doesn't believe in their "god", hate anyone who thinks a little gun control is good, hate anyone who thinks we are making climate change, hate anyone on welfare, hate etc.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  9. Libdumb

    I have met the true enemy and it is people of this administration. It is time to resurrect the crusades and apply the second amendment to those that offend Christians. Never would I defend the principles of these Nazi's!

    May 10, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      So you dont support catholics? You do know that HitIer was a catholic and Germany at that time was truely a christian nation.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • codepwned

      That made me laugh so hard I choked on my biscuit.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Evangenital

      I am going to "The Black Hole Boutique" and buy me some good Christian porm.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  10. Honey Badger Dont Care

    This just locked the election for President Obama.

    Mit, you might as well pack it in and save yourself the embarasement.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • Shellyb1968

      This is going to hurt him politically. Personally I don't care either way on the subject. I have always felt that what someone does in their own home is their OWN buisness as long as it's not hurting others. Fact is fact though. A large number of the President's base is African American and a large number of those people are Christians. I remember reading a poll just recently that showed.... 60% of the people that were polled said that their religious beliefs played an important part in whom they would vote for.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Beer

      You are incorrect. He just destroyed his chance for reelection because most of this country is full of idiot christians that don't think others deserve equal rights.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  11. sheba

    I am a republican who was not planning to vote because I was not particularly excited about the republican nominee. Now I am fired up and so are my family and friends who dont care much for Romney. We will be voting for Romney.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Pete

      And you're and idiot!

      May 10, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Go ahead and sell out your own morals then. Go ahead and vote for a non-christian over a christian.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • jk105

      Stop the lies. You were always going to vote Republican. I don't believe you.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Ting

      Let your prejudice guide your vote. Thanks for putting some real thought into it.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • Evangenital

      That's exactly what that gay looking guy, Tony Perkins said.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • ReligionLOL

      lol. you're that much against gay marriage that you would vote for a person that you dont want to be president to become president. obama specifically stated that it would still be up to the individual states to choose and his decision is only personal. So comical how stupid some people are

      May 10, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  12. ElmerGantry

    Giving someone equal rights does not infringe or take away rights from you.
    It just makes illegal to enforce your prejudice and hate.

    It's really just that simple!

    May 10, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Right on, the day just started and I would vote that as the quote of the day!

      May 10, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Thanks Honey Badger Don't Care, but i can't claim it. A friend passed it on and the source is unknown.

      Had to post because it very succinctly and accurately sums it up.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  13. asm_ith

    This entire issue just proves that the concept of marriage needs to be split into separate things. First is the set of legal rights and privileges that are recognized by governments, companies, contracts, etc.; this is purely a legal issue. This form of marriage can be performed only by a civil authority (e.g., justice of the peace, judge, etc.); it is not permitted to be done by clergy, and is the ONLY way to get any of the legal rights and privileges. If a religion wants to bestow something that it calls "marriage" and defines a set of benefits associated with it from a religious perspective, a couple should be free to go to clergy for that; if a particular religion doesn't want to allow gay marriage, that is its business and the LGBT community can fight with that religion. But no legal rights are associated with this type of religious marriage. If a couple only went to clergy, they are not considered married in the eyes of the law, and have none of the rights and privileges that are associated with marriage from a legal perspective.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Machiavelli

      Great post, one that I can definitely agree with.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • RFBJR

      Well stated. Most people do not see marriage as a legal issue. The word marriage is a legal term that appears in quite a bit of legislation. My point of view is that the term marriage in a legal sense has always been intended to mean a union between a man and a woman. Changing that definition means changing legislation.

      The religious element is a separate issue. If someone believes that it is improper behavior, so be it. If someone else sees it as ok, more power to ya. Religious organizations should have the right to choose whatever point of view is suitable to their belief system. If someone does not agree, they can change their religious affiliation. Aren't there like a million divisions in the church already?

      May 10, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  14. Jt_flyer

    Will there be any news about the economy today? You know... The thing that actually concerns me.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  15. joshua

    sodom and gomorrah will judge us if G. doesnt destroy us. good luck.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Dan

      Sodom and Gommorrah were cities destroyed by your god because they didn't want to play ball by his rules, right? How can destroyed cities judge anything?

      May 10, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Primewonk

      Your post makes no sense. How could 2 bronze-age towns that may or may not have actually existed, judge our country?

      May 10, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Funny you should bring up Sodom and Gommorah,

      The "righteous" Lott offers his two vïrgïn daughters to the unruly mob.

      Genesis 19:8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eye.

      Yep that's the Christian Family Values definition of righteous.

      LOL

      May 10, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      And Jesus even called Lot a "Most righteous man." So it has to be true.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • jk105

      Sodom and Gomorrah are in no position to be judging us!

      May 10, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Colin

      I recall the Sodom and Gamorrah myth. It involved the lionization of Lott, who had drunken father-daughter incest twice. Good family values there!!

      May 10, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • Evangenital

      Those cities exist in the fairy tale book called bible. And if something like that story ever happened, it wasn't god delivering fire. It was a meteor crashing through the earth atmosphere.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  16. Tammy

    I won't vote for a liberal, and I certainly won't vote for a Mormon. They are both completely against God's will. PERIOD.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Pete

      And what is God's will Tammy?!! You like most Christians pick and choose what you want out of the Bible to suit your needs or fight your battles. Re-read the Bible honey, you are your husbands property and should shut your mouth, take off your make-up and jewerly and cover your head. What a hypocrite you are.....

      May 10, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Tammy

      My HUSBAND died two months ago in a car crash!!! I bet you feel really good about yourself now!!

      May 10, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • SuperDave

      Wow. What a wingnut!

      May 10, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Pete

      @Tammy...sorry your husband died, but according to the Bible, you were still his property. My point being, most people who quote the Bible use it to benefit them or to degrade or hurt someone else.....how is that Christian?

      May 10, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Talmonis

      Not really Tammy, we don't care about your feelings. You, who work to actively limit the rights of other citizens of this country. So feel bad for your husband's death? Hell, it's one less like you.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Tammy

      AND WHERE DO YOU SEE ME QUOTING THE BIBLE??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
      !?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
      ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
      ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

      May 10, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • ReligionLOL

      Well said pete

      May 10, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • sarahsmart

      You dont know God.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Evangenital

      How sad that at this stage of human evolution and so many problems we still deny equality and our problems are debated by looking into a fairy tale book.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  17. Massive Balls

    Holy Jesus. You liberals preach tolerance, but you bash the bloody shit out of religion and religious people every chance you get! Talk about a bunch of hypocritical fuckasses.

    Come on. Preaching about respecting people, but the second someone says they're a christian or a muslim, you've got your pitchforks out. And you can look yourself in the mirror ever morning before you perform yoga in your smartcars while driving to the whole food market? Self-serving cock mongrels.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Dan

      Oh shut up. Pitchforks, really? Which group was it that was actively murdering people for witchcraft up until the early nineteenth century? Who is it that arrives in hordes and physically attacks people outside of planned parenthood? Here's the deal, you Christians are in the majority in this country, you don't get to play the oppression card.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • Massive Balls

      I'm not a christian, you self-important fuck.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Dan

      I actually misread the tone of your post. Sorry about that. I stand by my sentiment but it probably belonged elsewhere.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Primewonk

      And which group is it that seeks to legalize hate and discrimination?

      May 10, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Chaos

      Ironically, there's nothing hypocritical about being intolerant of intolerance as its the only way to achieve tolerance. Sort of like needing a justice system with police and jails to maintain a free society.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • anonymous

      Only in america I would hear something like that

      EXPECT US!

      May 10, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • Massive Balls

      Sure Chaos.

      If you don't agree with christianity or muslimism, bully the hell out of them until they're afraid to have beliefs. Great idea. I'll be sure to use this thought process as top shelf fap material later on this evening. Any more award-winning philosophies?

      May 10, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Dan

      There is nothing wrong with not tolerating intolerance and intolerant people, but that doesn't make it not hypocritical. The problem is that because our nation is made up of more than just one religious group with one religious philosophy, applying a single group's laws to the whole country is completely contrary to the whole freedom of religion thing.The argument against gay marriage is entirely religious in nature, and as such it has no place in government. Simply put if you're anti gay marriage, don't marry someone of your own gender.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Vidyashanti

      Your use of words tell the world how much religious you are. There are very few truly religious people. Others just want to world to see them as 'religious'.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Evangenital

      Such language. And on CNN.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  18. Dan

    I don't understand why you religious nuts can't keep your policies to yourselves. It's seriously not any of your business what other consenting adults do with each other. I love how you scream religious oppression when laws don't go your way, but you're the first to delegate people you disagree with to second-class citizen status.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Mira

      Ahhh, yes Dan. You are so right. Rember the wonderful night we had together. Well, unfortunately I had a wonderful night with a consenting adult and we shared something that you and I shared later. Michael apologized to me for infecting me and I guess I should apologize to you as well. But, we were consenting and what we do has no affect on others. I am so in agreement with you. LOL...tell you stuff to the hundreds of thousnads of people who died simply becasue consenting adults did things that do not affect others. Yeah...religious nuts are everywhere. You might want to use your brain to think of consequences that happen that you seem to deny.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  19. jD

    Wow, what a headline: "Obama riles religious conservatives." Those idiots are in a constant state of "rile". They just like to complain about everything. From our president not being a citizen, to his religious beliefs, to blaming him for EVERYTHING whether he did it or not they are a broken record. So much for supporting your president. Makes us look really good, doesn't it?

    May 10, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  20. jane

    Thank-you President Obama. At first glance I worried about the possible negative impact on your bid for re-election, however; after further thought I accepted the more Christian view. Good begets good.
    Let the haters hate, and let people of good will across the country stand up and be counted.

    May 10, 2012 at 8:03 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.