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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

"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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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. JP0

    It's good to see that one person running for the office of President has some convictions. I agree that the Republicans are making a big mistake in underestimating Obama. More power to them!

    May 10, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  2. Sim34

    Florida may be the exception.

    May 10, 2012 at 12:12 am |
  3. Sim34

    The really sad thing is that there will still be nutjobs who will say that Obama's a Muslim even after this.

    May 10, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • mandarax

      I think you may understand the doublethink made possible by general ignorance. I imagine the people who throw around accusations like "socialist" and "muslim" don't really understand what those words mean, and thus don't recognize when they are paradoxical. To the average wingnut those words just mean "other" and "other" is the worst thing anyone can be.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • mandarax

      Sorry, I meant "underestimate" rather than "understand" in that first sentence.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:33 am |
  4. Economic Agenda Contrast

    And if the Republicans, i.e., Romney and the right-wing, try to make an issue of President Obama's support for Gay marriage, that will be the Proof the American people need to fully convince them that all the Republican nominee would do, if elected, is continue to concentrate on opposing people's human rights to marriage and concentrate solely and deeply on that one issue since he could care less about the American People Obama Embraces, while President Obama would continue to be compassionate by working hard and in favor of the Middle-Class, the Elderly, Minorities, Teachers, etc. and the Poor as he has done these past four years. Something that would literally take a cold day in Hell for Romney to do. So, if you're rich vote Republican. But brother if you aren't, You NEED Obama or be left out in the cold for good! Obama/Biden 2012!!

    May 10, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  5. bob572176

    to think people would vote for a candidate based on gay marriage or the abortion issue or even gun drives me crazy with so many real problems out there. no wonder the country is all screwed up. religious conservatives have to be the dumbest group of people out there.

    May 10, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Dillon

      I don't think dumbest is the right word to use. I would say, in my observations, many arguments are black and white without thinking outside the box. In other words, there seems to be little ability or attempt to think and challenge their own beliefs.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • Dillon

      I think I'm super-scared about an inability of Americans to actually "understand" an issue. It's one thing to feel a certain way about an issue, it's another to actually back up your beliefs. IF you want to keep America great and IF you want a diverse workforce you have to educate your population so there is the ability to invent and diversify your economy. That requires obtaining education(ok...I'm not saying everyone is college material and I apologize if this is offending anyone) so you can pursue the next great invention.

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

      I wonder if all this hatred has more to do with a dislike of Obama than gay marriage. Gay marriage, or whatever form it takes, is going to happen. 50 years from now it won't even be an issue. I still, to this day, don't completely understand the hatred towards the president. I disagree with him on many issue and I'm somewhat disappointed, but I also recognize where our country is, economically, and his hands are somewhat tied.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  6. Indianpass

    Well, the 'risk' is minimal because the large majority of the persons who are upset or disturbed by the President finally coming to grips with his beliefs (?) are not changing their minds because of this. In other words, I don't think Billy Graham would have voted for him anyway. This really is a no-brainer so forget about how intelligent a move this is. It is sad to see someone who seemed to have integrity (the Prez) making these kind of election-season statements. It would have seemed more real two years ago. He's still got my vote but it would be better to see more substance in these moral fabric issues sooner. The other guy who's running is just....so....lame. He would be the lamest 1st term president forever and ever. Amen.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
  7. jimbojoker

    "Outraged conservative Christian leaders," is that RIGHT, pun intended .Leaders is a loose term when describing these people protagonist's is more like it. From what i have seen of these christian leaders the Mahatma puts them to shame, there as a real role model. These leaders are no more christian than the Taliban are Muslim.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  8. Dillon

    I have no issue with anyone wanting to disagree with a point I made, but come on...turn off Fox, MSNBC, and CNN. Do a little factual research at your library or online.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  9. Responder

    Its obvious that Obama has something on Romney .. or something clearly up his sleeve ... but i've never seen chess played so well .... and it's a game he's been playing for over a decade ,,, Obama will go down in history as perhaps the most intelligent president the nation has seen in a century ...

    May 9, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Alan

      LOL!!! What a laugh!

      May 9, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Paula

      Amen!! Glad to see someone else gets it.

      May 9, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Realist

      I agree. He's highly underrated. There is something cunning and shrewd about setting these divisive issues out for the Republicans to feed on. Obama's campaign staff has figured out that the best way to be the Repubs is to let them beat themselves, which they will do if given even the slightest encouragement. If people start comparing this issue to civil rights, it could make the Repubs look even more backward than they do already...make them look mean-spirited, which they are, of course. And those in the center aren't going to want to vote for a party they perceive as mean, out of step, just plain backwards.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • john

      He does–How is romney who believes that the book of mormon is the word of God going to argue with obama wether he is right or wrong accoding to the bible?

      May 10, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • jengeddie

      Obama is forcing the GOP's hand in several areas , economic and social issues. What is accomplished is a distilled picture of Republican values : protection of corporate welfare , indifference to students struggling with college debt , insensitivity to people abused by health insurance companies , insensitivity to people sick who find no affordable health policy that actually offers legitimate coverage . Never has it been so clear what the GOP stands for and that is why their brand smells very foul .

      May 10, 2012 at 12:16 am |
  10. BADGUY

    My personal feeling is that the "risk" Obama is taking show's he's got guts. It would have been easy to say "no more questions" and waltz out of the room. I think it will DRAW more voters rather than it will REPEL. Let's face it. What could Obama due to change the current status quo on this issue anyway? He could never convince the Republican Congress to pass a law trumping state anti-gay marriage laws. An amendment to do so would be as impossible to pass as an amendment AGAINST gay marriage.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Realist

      Yeah, dodging the question would be a Romney-Robot move.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  11. Dillon

    I really take issue with those blaming Obama for todays economic woes. Granted, he has made mistakes and bears some responsibility. If you go back and look at George W Bush's 2009 budget, keep in mind all presidents put out a potential budget even if they are leaving office, the US was projected to carry a trillion dollar deficit at that point.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • DJ

      Yes, the economic woes started with Bush. But President Obama made several promises to the American people if he were elected. So many are now losing HOPE and there has not been much of a CHANGE economically speaking. Do we risk everything to give him four more years to try?? We gave Bush 4 more years and look where that had gotten us!!

      May 10, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  12. Dillon

    Seriously...anyone care to share what their occupation is and level of education? I'm not trying to demonize anyone, just curious. Also, your location in the country?

    May 9, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Observer

      I'd recommend against your survey. As much fun as it might be to find out the background of some of the "dummies", TRUTH exists separate from the messenger. You probably don't want things to digress into "Oh, yeah? Well my school is better than yours".

      May 9, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Dillon

      Nonono...I see your point, but truth is found in debate and respecting each others opinions while backing it up with fact.

      And even if we disagree, I'll still buy you a drink at the end of the day:)

      May 9, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • Observer


      I felt the same way when I started commenting on here. Unfortunately, I have found that few people share our philosophy. Sady, I have found far too many people who run and hide rather than answer tough questions. Often, when cornered, they just resort to name-calling because that's all they have left when they don't want to be honest with themselves.

      When people know the specific backgrounds of opponents, those factors will be used especially by people losing the argument to try to change the topic. Unfortunately, that seems to be human nature.

      May 9, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • Dillon

      Oh good point. I didn't think about that.

      May 9, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  13. ruemorgue

    this solidifies the liberal and left-leaning votes whih are slightly disenchanted with him. as for the right-wingers, they were not going to vote for him anyway. it can hurt him of more right-wingers vote than would have because of the general disenchantment with romney as the republican candidate.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Seine

      Romney has all the charisma and charm of a dead horse.

      May 9, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • BADGUY

      I think the "risk" Obama is taking on this issue sets him apart from Romney. Romney appears to say whatever he thinks people want to hear. Obama's position may or may not be "wise". But....It IS Presidential!

      May 9, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  14. Dillon

    How many people on here lives their life as the bible dictates?

    May 9, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Realist

      I don't live my life according to the bible or any other 3000-year-old set of fanciful, irrelevant, downright ridiculous stories.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Charlie

      I have contemplated sacrificing chickens to the Lord.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • Dillon

      Oh, I just wonder. My mom is a devout Catholic, but we disagree on many things. One thing I truly respect her for is all the volunteer work she does for local shelters. She follows her faith and tries to help those who need help.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  15. Reality

    Obama says that he and his wife are practicing Christians. Not so fast!!

    Obama "mouths" that he is Christian i.e. believes in gay Gabriel and war-mongering Michael the Archangel and Satan. BO's support of abortion/choice however vitiates has Christianity as he is the leader of the Immoral Majority who are now the largest voting bloc in the country. Immoral Majority you ask??

    The 78 million voting "mothers and fathers" of aborted womb babies !!! (2012 -1973 Rowe vs. Wade = 39.

    39 x 2 million = 78 million. Abortion rate in the USA as per the CDC is one million/yr.

    And the presidential popular vote in 2008? 69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM. The population of the Immoral Majority in 2008? ~ 70 million !!!!!!

    The real "Obamacare" i.e. getting re-elected on the backs of 39 million aborted womb babies by using the votes of the 78 million voters involved in said abortions.

    And the irony:


    May 9, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Dillon

      ROFL!!!!!! Ohhhh...more!!! MORE!!!!!!

      May 9, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Observer


      Get back to reality. Even if birth control worked perfectly and everyone used it, abortion would still be an issue. There will always be victims of r-ape and incest. Abortions are also necessary to save the lives of some mothers.

      You need to think things through in the future.

      May 9, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Realist

      Vitiates his Christianity? Maybe you can tell me where in the bible is says one single word about abortion.

      I'll save you the search. It doesn't. This is simply a hot-button issue that conservatives in their fantasy world have latched onto because it gives them the opportunity to tell other people what to do, which is about the only thing in life that they excel at. It's really funny how Christianity, as it is practiced in this country, bears absolutely no connection to the philosophy outlined in the bible. If it did, conservatives wouldn't be screaming "Mine, mine, mine," like a bunch of greedy children. They'd be selling all of their possessions, walking out into the street, and spreading the word. If you're not doing that, you can't honestly call yourself a Christian, because you're putting no more emphasis on the actual words of the bible than I do. And I'm an atheist. Go ahead, sell your stuff and do as Jesus said.

      Can't do it, can you? You're living a lie.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Realist

      And another thing. Exactly what makes you qualified to say that an embryo is a life anyway. Most of the medical profession would disagree with you. But then, again, they've only studied the topic most of their lives. I'm sure that's nothing compared to the 30 minutes of careful reflection that you spent on the subject before you decided to go out and tell the world how to live.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • Reality

      Thou shall not kill !!!!

      Hmmm, so a growing baby is considered by some to be nothing more than an infection? Talk about having no respect for human life!!!!!

      And Nature or Nature's god is the #1 taker of everyone's life. That gives some rationale for killing our growing young ones or those suffering from de-mentia, mental disease or Alzheimer's or anyone who might inconvenience your life???
      We constantly battle the forces of nature. We do not succ-umb to these forces by eliminating defenseless children!!!!!

      May 10, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Reality

      "Facts on Contraceptive Use

      January 2008 and June 2010


      • 62 million U.S. women (and men?) are in their childbearing years (15–44).[1]

      • 43 million women (and men) of reproductive age, or 7 in 10, are se-xually active and do not want to become pregnant, but could become pregnant if they or their partners fail to use a con-traceptive method.[2]

      • The typical U.S. woman (man?) wants only 2 children. To achieve this goal, she (he?) must use cont-raceptives for roughly 3 decades.[3]


      • Virtually all women (98%) aged 15–44 who have ever had int-ercourse have used at least one con-traceptive method.[2](and men?)

      • Overall, 62% of the 62 million women aged 15–44 are currently using one.[2] (and men)

      • 31% of the 62 million women (and men?) do not need a method because they are infertile; are pregnant, postpartum or trying to become pregnant; have never had inte-rcourse; or are not se-xually active.[2]

      • Thus, only 7% of women aged 15–44 are at risk of unwanted pregnancy but are not using con-traceptives.[2] (and men?)

      • Among the 42 million fertile, s-exually active women who do not want to become pregnant, 89% are practicing con-traception.[2] (and men?)


      • 64% of reproductive-age women who practice con-traception use reversible methods, such as oral con-traceptives or condoms. The remaining women rely on female or male sterilization.[2]


      Percentage of women experiencing an unintended pregnancy (a few examples)
      Some examples

      Pill (combined)……… 8.7
      Tubal sterilization ……0.7
      Male condom ……….17.4
      Vasectomy…………… 0.2
      IUD (Copper-T)……….1.0
      (Masturbation mono or dual)………. 0

      Periodic abstinence.. 25.3 (RCC approved)
      Calendar 9.0 (RCC approved)
      Ovulation Method 3.0 (RCC approved)
      Sympto-thermal 2.0 (RCC approved)
      Post-ovulation 1.0 (RCC approved)

      No method 85.0" (RCC approved and important to women and men wanting to get pregnant)

      (Abstinence) 0 (RCC approved)

      More facts about contraceptives from



      Cont-raceptive method use among U.S. women who practice con-traception, 2002

      Method No. of users (in 000s) % of users
      Pill………….. 11,661……………. 30.6
      Male condom 6,841……………… 18.0 "

      The pill fails to protect women 8.7% during the first year of use (from the same reference previously shown).

      i.e. 0.087 (failure rate)
      x 62 million (# child bearing women)
      x 0.62 ( % of these women using contraception )
      x 0.306 ( % of these using the pill) =

      1,020,000 unplanned pregnancies
      during the first year of pill use.

      For male condoms (failure rate of 17.4 and 18% use level)

      1,200,000 unplanned pregnancies during the first year of male condom use.

      The Gut-tmacher Inst-itute (same reference) notes also that the perfect use of the pill should result in a 0.3% failure rate
      (35,000 unplanned pregnancies) and for the male condom, a 2% failure rate (138,000 unplanned pregnancies).

      o Conclusion: The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the pill or condoms properly and/or use other methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

      May 10, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  16. roadrunner2

    I wonder if Ralph Reed and Tony Perkins are secretly a gay couple.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  17. Responder

    This is being done early enough to quell anxiety for those who thought they might care, but in fact don't , while showing the continual courage to LEAD a Nation meanwhile that Spineless Ken Doll COWARD continues to scurry from issue to issue like a ShameLess Shape-Shifter .... I think Romney wil be left to , Very InArticualtely , Dribble why he feels a percentage of the people he wishes to lead should be treated like second class citizens ...

    May 9, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  18. roadrunner2

    oh noooooo, people like Tony Perkins are furious about this, poor little closeted Tony.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  19. Alfredo Fla.

    They weren't going to vote for him anyway. Why should he care? Besides, religious people are losing their minds... going insane.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
  20. Craig

    So now conservatives can hate him because he's black AND because he's for gay marriage. Kinda takes a little of the heat off the more racist factions of the Republican party.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • jim

      We dont hate anyone because of their race we hate them because of their stupid failed policies and your arrogance against women who stay home and actually take care of their family, your blatant disrespect for America, and your general overall laziness. Prepare to be tea bagged this fall dems, you are going to lose big time.

      May 9, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Observer


      After 8 years of failure after failure by the last Republican president, it's pretty silly to pick on Democrats.

      Your claim that Democrats disrespect America is really funny after the lack of respect Repbulicans have shown for our nation's leader and the office he holds.

      May 9, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Alfredo Fla.

      They hate him because he's trying to fix the mess the Republicans left the country when Bush left office. It was a huge mess..... instead of getting attacked we got the attackers and foiled multiple plots against the country... stopped a recession from becoming a depression, got fair pay for women...etc. etc. etc. they called that failed policies after it was their fault the economy tanked. Now this...smh

      May 9, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Seine

      Jim: We have nothing against women who stay home and take care of their family, but women who are FORCED to stay home because they aren't allowed to get an education or own their own property. It's a woman's choice, just like it's a man's choice if he wants to stay home and take care of the family and let the woman work. One type of family dynamic does not work for EVERY family, and that's why you guys are ruining this country. You say you want the government out of your houses and towns, I want the government out of my uterus and out of my relationship. Which one is more invasive do you think? Oh right, you don't care because I'm a woman.

      May 9, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Wow, jim, you must really, really hate former President Bush, since many of President Obama's policies were put into play to stop the economic freefall that the previous administration created through such foolish and irresponsible acts as starting an unnecessary war without means of paying for it while cutting taxes.

      May 9, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Dillon

      Jim, America's problems are structural. The problems we are facing started decades ago.

      Jim, do you know what the word structural means?

      May 9, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • BADGUY

      jim – "arrogance against women"? You're kidding...right? Talk about "turning an argument". AND..are the Republicans going to beat the comment on Romney's wife "into the ground"? I'm afraid a party who's promising to raise taxes on 50% of the poorest Americans..(so they'll have "a stake in America"?)...AND..decrease or eliminate taxes on the Rich, so they'll get even richer, doesn't have much to campaign on other than BS.

      May 9, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Sim34

      Racist, or h0m0ph0bic, it's still the same, general bigoted pool.

      May 9, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • BADGUY

      But they can only vote against Obama ONE TIME....I think?

      May 10, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • Realist

      Ignorance is thinking you can stay at home and raise a bunch of children that are going to suck down our resources and then believe you've done something of high esteem. Ignorance is giving people tax credits for sitting at home raising 6 children instead of contributing to society. We've got 8 billion people on this planet. We shouldn't be glorifying the idea of creating more. Again, conservatives demonstrate their namesake, which actually means clinging to the past, being backward. The sooner we stop listening to anything they say, the better. And oh, yeah...there is actually global warming. We need a policymaker who acknowledges that, who makes decisions based on science, not space-god-mythology.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:34 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29
About this blog

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.