May 10, 2012

Obama, backing gay marriage, starts fundraising tour

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Vice President Joe Biden got "a little bit over his skis" in publicly embracing gay marriage, forcing Obama to speed up his own plans to announce his historic support for the right of same-sex couples to marry.

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President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks during the "In Performance at the White House" on Wednesday, honoring songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David, recipients of the 2012 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

AP

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"Would I have preferred to have done this in my own way, in my own terms, without I think, there being a lot of notice to everybody? Sure," Obama said. "But all's well that ends well."

Obama, who was ready today to dive into the embrace of Hollywood's wealthy elite at a gala fund-raising event, said he had planned to announce his support for gay marriage before his party's convention in early September. But he told ABC News that his hand was forced by Biden, though he said his vice president spoke out in support of same-sex marriage out of a "generosity of spirit."

The president made his historical endorsement on the eve of a sold-out fundraiser this evening at the Los Angeles home of movie star George Clooney.

The timing of the event is creating a blockbuster confluence of high celebrity, big money and committed activism. Hollywood is home to some of the most high-profile backers of gay marriage and the 150 donors who are paying $40,000 to attend Clooney's dinner tonight will no doubt feel newly invigorated by Obama's watershed announcement the day before.

Overall, the dinner is expected to raise close to $15 million — about $6 million from the guests and the rest from a campaign contest for small-dollar donors, the winners of which get to participate in the dinner. It is an unprecedented amount for a single event. And it means that in one single evening the Obama camp and the Democratic Party will collect more than Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican challenger, has amassed in his best single month of fundraising.

Obama will also hold fundraisers earlier in the day in Seattle, where he was expected to collect at least $3 million toward his re-election effort. On Friday, he will fly to Nevada, a highly contested state, where he will call for housing relief in a speech in Reno.

But Obama's support of gay marriage, announced in an ABC interview Wednesday, will be dominant, culminating in yet another fundraiser Monday in New York sponsored by gay and Latino Obama supporters.

"I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient," Obama said in the interview. But he added that now, "it is important for me personally to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married."

Even though Obama doesn't have the power to make same-sex marriage legal, his announcement was the first by a sitting president.

Gay rights advocates, who had long urged Obama to state his support, immediately cheered his declaration.

Obama's re-election campaign also quickly sought to take advantage of Obama's embrace of gay marriage and draw a sharp contrast with the president's Republican rival Mitt Romney.

By day's end Wednesday, the campaign had emailed a clip of the interview and a personal statement from the president to its vast list of supporters, drawing attention to his stance. This morning, the campaign released a web video claiming Romney would roll back some rights for same-sex couples and calling the Republican "backwards on equality."

When asked in a portion of the ABC interview that aired this morning on "Good Morning, America" if his public statement was part of his re-election strategy, the president replied, "It would be hard to argue that somehow this is something that I'd be doing for political advantage because frankly, the politics, it's not clear how they're going to cut."

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