Obama Showed Moral Leadership with Gay Marriage Support

This article by Evan Wolfson was originally published on May 11, 2012 in US News. Read the full article here.

Wednesday, President Obama shared with the American people his journey to support for the freedom to marry—a journey that a majority of Americans have taken with him and that many are still on. Fortunately, in 2012, coming out in support for the freedom to marry was not only the right thing to do, but the right thing to do politically. And for Democrats, independents, and those who want to appeal to 2008 Obama supporters, it's an overwhelmingly clear political advantage.

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll confirmed the trends and momentum that we've seen and felt in the past three years, as Americans have opened their hearts and changed their minds in favor of the freedom to marry. As more Americans have engaged in conversations with their friends and family members about why marriage matters to gay couples—conversations like those the president spoke about having with his wife, and that he and Michelle had with their daughters—people move in support. Numerous polls now show majority support among Catholics, near-majority or majority support among African-Americans and Latinos, and even growth in support among Republicans and seniors, the groups most resistant. Voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports the freedom to marry than a candidate who opposes, with a full 79 percent saying that they either prefer a candidate who supports marriage or would not change their vote because of a candidate's support. Crucially for the president, Obama 2008 voters are eight times more likely, and independents two times more likely, to vote for a candidate who favors the freedom to marry.

With his base and an overwhelming super-majority of younger voters all strongly favoring the freedom to marry, the president's support motivates the voters he needs who have been looking for the spur to be as fired up as they were in 2008. Moreover, even those who may not agree with the president but still are open to voting for him have continuously reported on polls that for them, marriage comes in last place on their radar screen of questions they vote on. They can appreciate the president's authenticity in sharing his story of coming to know gay and lesbian friends, staffers, and servicemembers and seeing how the exclusion from marriage has hurt them and their families—and then choose a president based on bigger and broader questions that matter to them in tough economic times. And, of course, the contrast between the president and the extremist position staked out by his likely opponent—now to the right of Dick Cheney (who supports the freedom to marry) and even George W. Bush (who stated support for civil union)—could not be greater.

President Obama has done what we elect presidents to do, showing moral leadership and speaking from the heart. History vindicates presidents who lead, much as it records America's progress toward liberty and justice for all.