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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. jasoncdanforth

    This is NOT a middle eastern theocracy. Why should we oppress gay people for the exact same reasons that Islam oppresses women? Because our god is more "right" that their god? Oh, please...

    May 10, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  2. Matthew

    I was actually thinking about Obama until now. Seriously.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • todd in DC

      Because he demands that all Americans be treated equally? Yeah, the horror. Grow up

      May 10, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Matthew

      No because all the liberal losers on here would kill every Christian if given the chance and you know it. I really don't even mind gays and was ok with them (even though it is a sin) until they started this Anti-Christian rhetoric. I dislike gays not because their gay but because they hate and want to kill all the Christians in this country.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  3. Think for yourself...if you are capable

    Religion is such a farce...a way to fleece people of their money. To all those, saying whoever "follows" Obama are just sheep, take a look in the mirror you freaking hypocrites. What are you? You are worse sheep than anyone. Five people read the bible and interpret it 5 different ways, but you just believe the one interpretation of the one person who is spewing their view on it as you give them 10% of your money every Sunday. Religion is for the weak-minded, who have to have SOMEthing to point to when bad things happen to them. "It was God's plan". Yeah, his plan alright. Why is it called the "King James version"? Because someone edited it to include what they wanted it to. A great way to make you follow them...like sheep. Ba Ba

    May 10, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  4. bob

    When you hear "religous conservative" you should think "politician" in sheep's clothing.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  5. cc423

    We do not vote on who gets rights in this country. And religion does not dictate the rights of others. This is the land of the free and if you don't like it leave.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Except for how we have done, and continue to do, just that.

      We vote on whether or not "other" gets the same rights as the rest of us. It's wrong and anti-American.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  6. Bible just a theory

    BEST chance for CHRISTIANS to display their hate of their fellow humans since they OPPOSED SCHOOL DESEGREGATION and spat at the children trying to go to school. I bet the WHITE MOB outside of the Little Rock high school wasn't a mob of ATHEISTS!

    May 10, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Dave A

      You are RIGHT, bible...I was there!! the haters were the "christians"

      May 10, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • stoo

      Well put!

      May 10, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  7. nolimits3333

    Science flies you to the moon....

    Religion flies you into buildings....

    May 10, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • todd in DC

      Does that mean it takes a combination of religion and science to fly a building to the moon?

      May 10, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  8. palintwit

    I predict that someday soon the Sarah Palin family trailer will become as big a vacation destination as Graceland. It will be called Sarahland. Teabaggers, birthers and evangelicals from the four corners of the bible belt will make the pilgrimage, gladly paying $25, $35, or more for the chance to tour Sarah Palin's trailer and to go out back and see the actual outhouse where she took her morning dump.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • 3vix6

      The Republican/Christian version of the "Haj". Instead of seeing Meccah, they go to graceland and see Sarah Palin's trailer.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  9. carolb

    "Obama stressed in the interview that his support was personal... But many conservatives chafed at the idea that the president's personal views would not affect public policy"
    Sorta sounds like the '60s when opponents fussed over John F Kennedy being Catholic, and how his religion would supposedly affect his presidency. Now Catholics (among others) are fussing over a similar issue.
    Funny . . .

    May 10, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Jeff

      I like this line in the story. Many conservatives chaff that Obama is President period. How would this change anything? Saying that conservatives chaff at anything he is the biggest "no duh" statement possible.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  10. Cielo

    Be honest. "Religious conservatives" weren't going to vote Obama ANYWAY! They can stay under the rock where they ooze... I mean, live.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • rocketscientist

      That's true, but what's said in this article is that Obama's support will galvanize all those religious conservatives who didn't care much for Romney. It's definitely a gift for the Romney campaign.

      It's definitely another element that distinguishes the two parties.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  11. Colin

    Can any opponent of gay marriage articulate a legitimate reason to ban gay marriage that is NOT based on 2,000 year old Palestinian mythology?

    May 10, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • BRC

      I was at a gay wedding once, they turned me into a newt!

      May 10, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Sue

      It's a superst.ition, actually. They think allowing gay marriage will be bad luck, incurring the wrath of God upon the land and possibly they might get hurt as well as collateral damage. In their minds, it's the equivalent of unleashing a couple million black cats upon the land. Silly!

      May 10, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Giancarlo Taliente

      Yeah, if you make anything other than One Man-One Woman legal. Then you have to make everything legal. That means 2 men-1 Woman or 2 Women-1Man or 10 women -10 men. Or Father and Daughter or any other possible combination that anyone can think up. If we say that Man-Man or Woman-Woman is acceptable then everything is acceptable. The best chance that our society has to survive is if the traditional family is strengthened and everything else is weakened.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Madtown

      Then you have to make everything legal
      ----
      Just like that? Automatically we'd be required to make everything else legal too?! Says who?

      May 10, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • David

      Can you make any moral decision in the absence of theology? To believe in nothing, as you do, is to believe and accept everything. To quote Dostoevsky, "If God does not exist, everything is permitted".

      May 10, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • todd in DC

      David, one doesn't need an invisible sky monkey to determine right from wrong. I'm a deist, but have no qualms about doing what is right as is determined by Law. On the other hand, look at the child m0lesters and enablers in the Catholic church hierarchy. You think they are moral? Really?

      May 10, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • BRC

      @David,
      God is not necessary for a sense of right and wrong. IF you read it, the OT section of the bible (more than half) isn't even a good starting point for learning right and wrong.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • myweightinwords

      @Giancarlo Taliente,

      Now that is just silly. With as hard as THIS battle was, what makes you think that any of those battles would be easier.

      Personally, I see no problem with plural marriages, provided that all involved are of legal age to consent and DO consent. The problem, of course, is with legal issues, and making sure that all are treated equally under the law with regard to taxing, insurances, etc. But that is all semantics that could be worked out.

      However, nothing about same-gender marriage makes it possible for plural marriages to be recognized. Nothing. Two people who love each other committing their lives together to become a family. Nothing more. Nothing less.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • BRC

      Giancarlo Taliente,
      there are substantially different contract issues between multi and single spouse arrangements, that's the difference. And a father marrying his daughter is abuse, so that one's easy. You're making false comparisons.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      I hate gay pedohpilia as much as I hate hetero pedophiles! I hate kids doing it with kids no matter which genders play spin the bottles! Eat then like gluttons do and Drink as the alcoholic does imbibe while ever getting laid to have a few seconds of bliss! God Damn the world of our own willfulness wants and ways!

      May 10, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • rocketscientist

      I'm not really an opponent, but I know people who are opposed to it. The reasoning is this: if gay marriage is allowed there's a trickle down that would occur. It would become more of a norm for society to the extent it would appear in school social studies curriculum. Remember this whole thing started when a little boy in Massachutes told his Mormon father about the book that was read to him and the rest of the class on two penguin males who raised penguin chick together? That's what many religious conservative parents are worried about. It actually is going to happen out here in California. The state legislature has passed a law requiring public schools at least (and maybe all schools) to include gays an lesbians in their social studies curriculum (I apologize for how badly I expressed all this, but if you're interested, I believe you can do a search for the LA Times article on this).

      So that's pretty much the concern. Religious conservative parents don't want or think their children should be exposed or influenced wrt gay and lesbian issues, culture, etc. at school. They think that's going over the line, into their religious and parental rights.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  12. God's Oldest Dreamer

    The marriage "rings" of "heteroisms" are becoming an enlargement issue of gayness prides and "heterolists'" numbness!

    May 10, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Fvck em

      Save the planet and kill yourself.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Bill

      Let us all praise Him in the highest and follow His Word to the letter. Deuteronomy 22:11, Ephesians 6:5-7, Exodus 21:20-21

      May 10, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  13. citizen9

    Gays, Guns and God. Only imprtant things that matter to gop.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • 3vix6

      Gays, Guns, God, and Greed.. You forgot one! 🙂

      May 10, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • 2km N of Ground Zero

      Well...Gammunition, too. And Geer!!! GGQ Gamburgers on Guly 4th, of course...Getc...

      May 10, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  14. Kay

    When a vote for banning gay marriage came up in my state, I voted against the ban, lets be very clear about that, but Obama's new view is political, pure and simple. How can his blind mice followers be so naive?

    May 10, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • 2km N of Ground Zero

      Well of COURSE it's political! What's your point? To the people it matters to, it's very much NOT political except that they'll vote one way or another in November.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Sue

      He's a politician, so everything he says is political just as everything the Grahams say is religious, even when they are making political statements.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Steve

      What makes you think you're not naive? The man, with some effort, sought to explain how and why he decided to go public. Great detail. If, as he says, he believes in fairness for all, how can you construe this is something other than a fundamantal piece of his platform?

      May 10, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Think for yourself...if you are capable

      "Blind mice followers" hmmm Sounds like a religion to me.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  15. n8263

    It is immoral to impose your personal Sharia Law on to others. Keep religion out of politics.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  16. 2km N of Ground Zero

    If you don't like gay marriage, don't have one.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Steve

      There you go.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  17. sam

    This issue has nothing to do with religious organizations – other than the fact that they and the government both use the term "marriage".

    Your religious marriage means nothing to the government – only the marriage license that you file with the courthouse means anything to the government.

    They are not asking for the government to force churches to marry gays.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  18. UrBFFJill

    If we give the gay community equality in this country, who will we marginalize and blame for the deterioration of the basic fabric of existence? Obviously what goes on in the bedroom of two consenting adults who love each other has a direct influence on my happiness and way of life. So why don't we just make it outright illegal and increasingly difficult to be happy together so they stop their own pursuit of happiness and the rest of us can feel accomplished that we bullied an entire population of Americans into submission.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • BRC

      Exactly, think of the children.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • curtmanda

      I love your comment! Brilliant satire!

      May 10, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  19. Bonnie

    Jesus said, "Really, of what benefit is it for a man to gain the whole world and to forfeit his soul? What really, would a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever becomes ashamed of me and my WORDS in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he arrives in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." Mark 8:36-38. President Obama, was it worth a few extra votes?

    May 10, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • 2km N of Ground Zero

      Yes.
      You can go hang out with the Taliban now.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Michael Robinson Gainesville FL

      Your imaginary friend jesus and his sky-papa never did exist. You are brainwashed. You believe in zeus and pharoah too?

      May 10, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Bill

      I agree Bonnie. Let's follow the word of GOD more closely. http://www.godhatesshrimp.com/

      May 10, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Ben Doverrighties

      Oh Bonnie quit quoting that drivel. What Jesus said 2,000 years ago is irrelevant to this discussion. Get your nose out of that comic book you call a Bible.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • John S.

      How true.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Michael Robinson Gainesville FL

      Bill, are you brain washed too? Just a question.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • theantagonist

      I was waiting for the thumpers to start quoting scripture – a great sign that they have no logical or moral argument here.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Michael Robinson Gainesville FL

      When it comes to intelligent conversation, bible thumpers have no leg to stand on. Religion begins where reality ends.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • VickiLynne

      I couldnt agree more Bonnie! JUst because the world accepts the sins of man and tries to jsutify it, does not make it worthy of justification.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Trish

      Bonnie I agree, if more people would live the Godly life this place wouldn't be like it is. The Lord will judge us all in the end and the true believers will be going to heaven. A marriage is between a man and woman, Adam and Eve and Adam and Steve, or Ashley and Eve. ( don't take the names seriously, just 2 I threw out there.) Oh and Jesus is not fake @ Michael Robinson Gainesville FL

      May 10, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • cc423

      Why does your religion get to dictate my rights? Did I ever get to vote whether or not you should be allowed to practice your religion... your mythology? No I did not. This is a SECULAR nation and if you do not like it, I invite you to move to Iran.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Michael Robinson Gainesville FL

      Vicki.....another brainwashed soul. Bless your lil' heart, you just can't help yourself.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Tex71

      Bonnie, please provide a reference for anything Jesus ever said about gays.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Michael Robinson Gainesville FL

      @Trish....you are so sad if you believe in your easter bunny jesus....

      May 10, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • BRC

      @Vicky,
      AND just because you have out of date books that have been retranslated, edited and manuipulated countles times over about 2 thousand years that can be interpreted to dissagree with a certani action, doesn't make it worthy of condemnation.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Michael Robinson Gainesville FL

      @BRC
      Could not agree more, completely made up BS. I hope one day to rid the world of the bible entirely. Too many religious nuts making rules that never should have applied anyway.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Steve

      If you have to make a law that hurts a number of people, just to prove your morals or faith, then you have no true morals or faith to prove

      May 10, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Michael Robinson Gainesville FL

      Moving on...

      May 10, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  20. Mazzata

    Are we not sick to death of "religious conservatives?" Let's push for the rapture to come as soon as possible.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Lois

      Careful.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Tony

      A-freakin'-men to THAT, Mazz!

      May 10, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Michael Robinson Gainesville FL

      Careful for what? Your imaginary friend jesus? And his mickey mouse sky-papa?

      May 10, 2012 at 10:22 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.