It does indeed appear that Barack Obama will end years of speculation and endorse marriage equality today in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts. The hastily scheduled interview, which was arranged yesterday afternoon, is happening at this hour. The White House cancelled their daily press briefing, suggesting that news will be made in this interview. His top advisers have gone silent.
Most of the informed speculation is coming from DC “insiders” of the Mark Halperin and Marc Ambinder variety. The access to power of these figures is unquestioned, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they had a read on what Obama is telling Robin Roberts right now. Halperin, going against type, did not actually portray this as good news for Mitt Romney (or John McCain):
Halperin explained the politics of the possible change: “if Republicans go after this hard — now, they’ll do it in a micro targeting way if the president changes his position. If Mitt Romney tries to make this a big issue, it takes them off the economy. If this election is fought not on the economy, that’s better for the President, and I think Republicans will see that. I don’t think this will be a huge issue in the election.”
The point is that, when the President told Joe Sudbay in 2010 that he was “evolving” on the issue, and when in 2011 his Justice Department stopped defending DOMA, anyone who had a strong attachment to this issue and opposed marriage equality already accused Obama of being a closet supporter. This won’t really change those attitudes. Over the last week, this moved squarely into a problem of character for the President. His “evolution” on marriage equality was chalked up to nothing more than craven politics, and it called into question his core beliefs, especially while he’s running a campaign highlighting the lack of core beliefs out of his opponent. It became about more than just marriage equality. It became about whether the President was willing to stand up for the people whose money he would take at fundraisers. He could no longer remain neutral. And so he made what is still a 50/50 choice at this point in history, given the polling.
LGBT activists ran a very smart campaign to force the President’s hand on this issue. And their work is probably not done. They want the President to sign an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT individuals in the workplace at federal contractors. And I imagine they’ll keep pushing on this.
At the end of the day, we’re going to find that this announcement won’t matter nearly as much politically as those wary of making the announcement have feared. We’re also going to find that this will not mean that the struggle for equality ends; obviously, given last night’s outcome in North Carolina. But it’s another signpost along that long road to justice and civil rights for all Americans, and an important one at that.