- (Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)
President Barack Obama's comments today that he approves of same-sex marriage have created a great stir among Christian leaders in the country, with some welcoming it as a good political move for them.
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, said in a statement that the president's remarks were not surprising and that they create a clear distinction between him and likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is against same-sex marriage.
"The President's announcement today that he supports legalizing same-sex marriage finally brings his words in sync with his actions. From opposing state marriage amendments to refusing to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to giving taxpayer funded marriage benefits to same-sex couples, the President has undermined the spirit if not the letter of the law," Perkins said Wednesday.
"The President has provided a clear contrast between him and his challenger Mitt Romney. 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," the FRC president continued.
Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and director of the Culture War Victory Fund, echoed Perkins' statements.
"On the one hand, morally this is good because lying to the American people is always wrong. President Obama has come clean that he is for gay marriage," she said.
She added, "Politically, we welcome this. We think it's a huge mistake. President Obama is choosing the money over the voters the day after 61 percent of North Carolinians in a key swing state demonstrated they oppose gay marriage.
"We now have clear choice between Romney and Obama, and we look forward to demonstrating in November that it's a bad idea for a national candidate to support gay marriage. Marriage is a winning issue for the GOP."
Obama revealed in an interview with ABC News Wednesday that after years of pondering the issue, he now supports marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
"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 that same-sex couples should be able to get married," Obama said.
The president's comments come after Vice President Joe Biden said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he is "fully comfortable" with same-sex marriage. Education Secretary Arne Duncan shared a day later that he is also on board with homosexual marriage.
Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) President Andrea Lafferty explained that it was clear where Obama stood on same-sex marriage even since Vice President Biden made his views known on Sunday.
Lafferty started: "This isn't exactly a bold move by the president. Forced by Joe Biden's big mouth, Obama had no choice left but to publicly embrace an agenda he has privately promoted for years.
"I've been saying this for the last four years. Obama has always been in favor of homosexual marriage, but was forced to keep his enthusiasm at a distance for fear of offending the American public.
"Obama needs new friends. His leadership has completely alienated Wall Street, financial investors, small businesses, soccer moms, and virtually every other constituency by pushing his radical ideology at a time when America needed principled leadership. Who better to appease than the LGBT community with tons of disposable income to fund his re-election campaign?" she continued.
Not all members of the faith community were critical of the president, however. Some, like the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy from the Interfaith Alliance, praised Obama for his support of same-sex marriage:
"President Obama's affirmation of the right to same gender marriage today is an important and historic moment in the life of the nation. His statement shows that he understands his role is to protect Constitutional principles over sectarian ideology. While I appreciate that the president thinks his position is consistent with his faith – a belief I have long held -- it is the Constitution, not his religion that should form the basis of his position.
"The continued denial of equality to the LGBT community is an anachronism in today's world. I hope and trust that the President will now lead us down a path towards public policy that codifies the right to marriage equality for the LGBT community."
Obama, a Christian, noted in his interview with ABC that his support for gay marriage "may be considered to put us (Obama and his wife) at odds with the views of others but 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 – treat others the way you'd want to be treated."
Alan van Capelle, CEO of Bend the Arc, a Jewish Partnership for Justice who campaigns for same-sex marriage, expressed how his group will personally benefit from Obama's new position:
"Tonight when I go home and look at my six-month-old son it will be the first time I will be able to tell him that our president believes we are a family. For many Americans, this is a political issue. For millions more, it's deeply personal.
"I applaud President Obama for coming out in support of marriage equality. Today, he showed himself as a leader who is in step with a majority of Americans, and millions of people of faith all over this country who support the right of gay and lesbian people to marry, including 76 percent of American Jews.
"It is also particularly timely and gratifying in light of North Carolina's misguided, out of step vote to exclude LGBT couples and families from legal recognition. On behalf of my family and millions more, thank you Mr. President," Capelle expressed.
The Rev. Mark Harris, president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, who was one of the most prominent backers of the state specifically banning same-sex marriage via a constitution amendment which passed Tuesday, expressed that he found the timing of the president's disclosure "fascinating."
"It is really a fascinating turn of events to come out [on the issue] the day after the 31st state in the United States voted overwhelmingly that marriage, under our constitution, is between one man and one woman, and that will be the only domestic union recognized in the state," he told CP.
"For the president to boldly state that 31 of our states have gotten it so wrong, that they believe so wrong, is absolutely a very fascinating decision to make. I have no idea of his rationale, of course I personally think he's wrong, I have diligently worked with others here in North Carolina to make it (ban on same-sex marriage) part of our state constitution, as we did yesterday," Harris said, adding, "I just don't understand it."
Asked if the president's statement might influence the opinion of North Carolinians who supported the same-sex marriage ban in the state, Harris said there is no chance. He emphasized that the amendment's opponents pulled out all their heavy financial artillery in fundraising and got backing from prominent pro-gay marriage politicians prior to the vote, and still did not manage to aggregate nearly enough backing.
"They pretty much played all the cards they had here in North Carolina," he said, hinting that even the president's backing is little likely to change anything. If anything, Obama's comments would make the supporters of the amendment "stand more boldly," he added.
Others, like Catholic Advocate President Matt Smith, pointed out that President Obama's open stance on same-sex marriage goes directly against Catholic Church teachings, which Obama has been at odds with in recent months with his push for religious-based employers to provide insurance that allows for contraception coverage.
"Once again, the President is spending time advancing an anti-Catholic agenda. Marriage was created long before any government came into existence. It is a settled issue in the eyes of the Catholic Church and should not be redefined," Smith began in a statement.
"First, the Obama administration takes away grant money helping victims of sex-trafficking over the Church refusing to refer the victims for abortions. Then the Obama administration violates our religious liberties by forcing Catholic institutions to pay for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization as the President's health care law is being implemented. And now, should his advocacy for same-sex marriage succeed, Catholic institutions could be forced once again to violate our beliefs," he continued.
Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of Faith & Freedom Coalition, believes Obama's newly pronounced support for gay marriage will prompt more people of faith to vote in this year's presidential election.
"Four years ago ... Barack Obama promised if elected not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000, pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term -- and made clear his support for traditional marriage. All those promises are now broken."
"At a time of high unemployment and severe economic distress, President Obama chose the week he launched his re-election campaign to flip-flop on same-sex marriage," he added. "Combined with his administration's opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, it reveals a president who is tone-deaf and out-of-touch with the time-honored values of millions of Americans. This is an unanticipated gift to the Romney campaign. It is certain to fuel a record turnout of voters of faith to the polls this November."