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Obama Embraces Same-Sex Marriage, Calif. Reacts

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Pete Souza/White House Photo/Getty Images

President Barack Obama announces his support for same-sex marriage in an interview with Robin Roberts, co-host of ABC's Good Morning America.


CY MUSIKER, HOST: Today, President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage and the reactions began rolling in from Californians on both sides of this controversial issue.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom started this ball rolling in 2004, when as mayor of San Francisco he defied state law and ordered the City Clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

NEWSOM: It's a point of real courage. This is the first time a sitting president in history uttered the words 'I support same sex marriage.' And to do it just months out from, what by any objective analysis will be a very close presidential campaign, is something that's not lost on me and I hope millions of others that were not convinced he would come out as forceful as he did today. 

MUSIKER: Now here's William Moniz, a gay man, and Air Force veteran, living in the Tenderloin.

MONIZ: I'm happy to see it, it's abut damn time he did it. And I'm glad, period, it's about time we have our equal rights.

MUSIKER: Others condemned the president's announcement. William May chairs Catholics for the Common Good, based in California.

MAY: I think this really makes marriage a major issue in the presidential election and I think there's a good chance it's going to be a disaster for Democratic congressional candidates across the country.

MUSIKER: May and his group were strong supporters of Proposition 8, California's ban on same sex marriage.

Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and sometimes advises Republican candidates. And he's a frequent guest on KQED News. 

Bill, I want to focus our talk on this announcement's impact in California. A lot of prominent and wealthy state Democrats have been unhappy with the president's moderate brand of governing, and threatened to withhold their checks and enthusiasm. Does this open their checkbooks?

WHALEN: President Obama is scheduled to be at a 72,000 square-foot home in Studio City in Los Angeles tomorrow night, the home of one George Clooney. I suspect there will be a standing ovation going into the room, a standing ovation leaving the room and he'll walk away with $12 million and the promise of more money, made possible in part by what he did today.

MUSIKER: How about for SuperPACs where Obama has been lagging?

WHALEN: He has, and that's the key. The SuperPACS are where you're not limited to federal campaign regulations, you can write five and six figure checks. We'll see if it translates into green for him.

Now that said, it's a calculation, and it's a calculation in this regard if you look at national polls, and the last Gallup poll on this topic had the country at 50 percent pro-same-sex marriage and 48 percent against. You can't get much more divided than that.

MUSIKER: How about for Romney? Does this motivate California Republicans to contribute to him?

WHALEN: It might. But it probably just reinforces for Republicans what they  don't like about Obama to begin with. Where this is more of a factor is in deeper red states throughout America, and those purple states that are still socially conservative, such as North Carolina which voted on this matter yesterday, and 60 percent of the voters, albeit in a very light turnout primary, said that they prefer marriage to be limited between a man and a woman.

MUSIKER: And Tony Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, has statewide political ambitions and he's also chair of the Democratic platform committee and he's pushing for a plank supporting gay marriage this year. How does this decision by the president today to support same-sex marriage change the equation for him?

WHALEN: Let's assume he wants to run for senate or governor one day and he wants to walk away from the convention saying look I convinced the president's men to put this in the platform that will help his chances. And it's not just Villaraigosa pushing this, but I believe 11 different state chairmen from around the country, the Democratic state chairmen, have written a letter to the National Committee that they do this. This will be a very interesting floor fight. It'll be the equivalent of what the Republicans went through a few cycles ago with abortion.

MUSIKER: And it would seem with the president supporting same-sex marriage it would have to be a plank.

WHALEN: There might be a few exceptions. If you look at what the president said today, it was very eloquent first of all, but on the other hand he got a little lawyerly at times where he talked about this being a personal conviction for him and he still believed that states should do what they want to do. So there's a little wiggle room there. I think given that the president has come around on the issue there though it would be very hard for the National Committee to keep it out of the platform.

MUSIKER: Thanks for the time today.

Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.


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