Richard Socarides, a long-time gay rights advocate and former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, told ABC News that Obama’s public support for same-sex marriages is an “extremely positive” moment that will help coalesce a national consensus.
“The struggle he’s had on this issue and how and why he’s ended up where he has… will be helpful to all Americans who are struggling with this,” Socarides said. ”I think that the fact that he was thinking about this for awhile – neither yes, nor no – was where many Americans are.”
“While it’s been a frustrating two years for us as advocates, I think we’ll look back on the process and think it was a very worthwhile journey and helpful to getting us to a national consensus,” he said, noting Obama’s preferred strategy has been to let public opinion “percolate up rather than come from the top.”
“I think it’s a style of governing that’s sometimes frustrating, but when it ends in the right place, it can be very effective,” he said.
Some gay rights advocates had called on Obama to speak out forcefully against North Carolina’s Amendment 1, which was passed Tuesday and bans all same-sex unions in the state. He opposed the measure in a statement through his re-election campaign, but never addressed it directly.
“The result in North Carolina is disappointing, especially if you live in North Carolina, but where this will end up is not in doubt, both with President Obama and the country at large,” Socarides said. “Given the margins there – had President Obama done this earlier – I don’t think it would have made much of a difference.”
As for the politics of Obama’s evolution – from opposing same-sex marriage on religious grounds in 2004 to embracing it today – Socarides said it wouldn’t affect the president’s standing with members of his base.
“This will not hurt him with anybody in his core base of voters, including African-Americans,” he said. “I strongly doubt there are any African-Americans who are going to vote against him because of this. But it’s basically a 50-50 issue in this country and that means in some places it’s stronger than others. It might impact the calculation in some states. But overall I think it’s going to be a big positive for the president because the president is leading and he’s being authentic and that’s what voters want.”