I have to say I didn’t think he’d do this ahead of November. But the US president has unequivocally supported marriage equality:

Barack Obama has declared his unequivocal support for same-sex marriage, taking a bold political gamble on an issue that divides American voters just months before a presidential election.

Obama’s announcement, in a hastily-arranged ABC interview on Wednesday, came after years of dodging the issue. He was forced to go public partly because vice-president Joe Biden ignited the debate with a remark in support of gay marriage at the weekend.

In the interview, Obama said he had long supported civil unions but his position on same-sex marriages had been evolving because of the powerful traditions and religious beliefs attached to the word marriage.

Obama said he had been swayed in particular by considering the service of gays and lesbians in the US military. “At a certain point I just concluded, 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 said.

I have to confess I’m actually stunned. Biden’s reckless timing notwithstanding I’m surprised Obama’s prepared to make such a risky statement ahead of the general election. Given the effect this has already had on America’s millions of zealous culture warriors, he must surely believe the poll will come entirely down to jobs – ‘the economy, stupid’. I really hope so, but I can’t imagine how this won’t continue to dominate the political discourse, regardless of what happens to the economy. President Mitt Romney we don’t need, and the numbers prepared to vote for him will now increase:

Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of Faith and Freedom Coalition, a conservative, anti-same-sex organisation, condemned Obama’s shift as breaking a promise he made in 2008 to support traditional marriage.

“Combined with his administration’s opposition to the Defence 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,” Reed said.

I couldn’t support what he’s actually done any more than I do. It’s an incredibly ballsy move, even if he felt backed into a corner by Biden, and it’s what his job is supposed to be about – he’s supposed to lead. Now if he’d just stop extra-legal drone strikes outside the US, close down Guantanamo Bay and pay any more attention to the rule of law than his predecessor I’ll be able to vote for him in November without having to hold my nose.

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