- (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
President Barack Obama has helped sway Americans in support of same-sex marriage, according to a newly released study by the Human Rights Campaign, which notes that he used the word "gay" 272 times in public speeches, more than any of his predecessors.
"Words matter an enormous amount, and when President Obama uses his platform to declare that LGBT people are just as American as anyone else, it has a huge and historic effect. President Obama has helped the American people get to know LGBT people on a personal level, and evidence suggests that when people know us, they don't want to discriminate against us," said HRC President Chad Griffin.
"President Obama has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of LGBT people, and the power of his rhetoric has been an essential part of that legacy."
The report noted that American support for gay marriage has risen from 40 percent in 2008, when Obama took office, to 53 percent in 2013, pointing to Gallup poll statistics. It added that Obama used words like "lesbian," "gay," "bisexual" and "transgender" in his public statements more than former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan did.
In May 2012, Obama became the first U.S. president to openly declare his support for same-sex marriage, noting that his opinion on the issue had "evolved" over time.
"Over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, 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," Obama told ABC News then.
While the president's comments were deemed a huge step forward by gay right groups, conservative organizations argued that they are damaging to the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman.
"The Bible clearly teaches that marriage should be a life-long commitment between one man and one woman," said Dr. George O. Wood, general superintendent of The Assemblies of God.
HRC noted in the key findings of the 28-page report that Obama further used the word "transgender" 33 times in speeches, "bisexual" 28 times, and "lesbian" 88 times.
In comparison, George W. Bush used the word "gay" only twice in public speeches, while George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan did not use it at all. Bill Clinton, however, used it 216 times.