A Fundraiser's Timing Puts Scrutiny on Obama's Gay Marriage Stance

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President Obama will be in New York City for a fundraiser with the gay community just as New York's state government is heading toward a vote on legalizing same-sex marriage Thursday evening. The timing is an accident--the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Leadership Gala has been planned for weeks--but it nevertheless will force Obama to say something about how he's "evolving" on the issue, the New York Daily News' Jonathan Lemire reports.

Gay rights activists will be watching for Obama to address the bill--which Politico's Julie Mason and Glenn Thrush say he can't avoid doing--and so will TV cameras, as local news reporters have been invited to the sold-out $1,250-per-person event. Many believe Obama secretly supports same-sex marriage. But the president probably won't explicitly endorse it, Politico predicts; instead, he'll likely "cite his support for civil unions and reiterate his long-held position that states have the right to pass whatever laws they see fit."

Politico explains the tricky position Obama faces:

"Obama's gay supporters--led by entertainment titan David Geffen--have urged him to back gay marriage, as have a roster of liberal Hollywood celebrities, from Jane Lynch to Ellen DeGeneres. But Obama has been cautious, with Democratic operatives admitting the issue could provoke a backlash among independents and even church-going blacks and Hispanics."

Thanks to similar political calculations, the Obama administration got off to a rocky start with gay activists, who were shocked in 2009 when the Justice Department said it would defend the Defense of Marriage Act and compared gay marriage to incest. But as The Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports, that relationship is on the mend. Prominent gay rights activists protested an LGBT fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee two years ago. But since then, Congress has repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the Justice Department is has stopped defending DOMA. Many of the same activists who skipped the 2009 fundraiser will be present tonight.

Recent accomplishments might have bought Obama a little leeway with his gay supporters, but some are still hoping he'll say he's further evolved on gay marriage. "When your position on something like this is behind Laura Bush, that is a problem," Michelangelo Signorile, a New York journalist who outed many celebrities in the 90s, told Politico. “He has to go all the way.”

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.