In perhaps the biggest year for the LGBT rights movement in history, one story stands out as the most significant of the year: President Obama’s re-election after he publicly endorsed marriage equality.
Obama won re-election by taking 51 percent of the popular vote compared to the 47 percent won by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, paving the way for the pro-LGBT policies of his first term to continue over the next four years. Obama won major swing states, including Ohio, Florida, Colorado and Virginia.
Obama gave a victory speech at his campaign headquarters in Chicago that political observers said harkened back to the passionate speeches that helped him first win the presidency in 2008.
“America’s never been about what can be done for us,” Obama said. “It’s about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. That’s the principle we were founded on.”
Obama claimed victory on Election Day after heading into campaign season in May by endorsing same-sex marriage during an TV interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, making him the first sitting U.S. president to take that step.
“I have to tell you that 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 … 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 said.
In contrast, Romney said on the same day that he opposes both same-sex marriage as well as civil unions offering the same benefits as marriage.
Obama’s announcement, which followed Vice President Joseph Biden’s support for same-sex marriage announced during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” concluded the 19-month “evolution” that Obama started in November 2010 when he told progressive bloggers that he might eventually support marriage equality.
Still, Obama said his endorsement was a personal one and that he was hesitant to address the issue previously because he didn’t want to nationalize it. The president maintained states should be left to debate the issue because marriage hasn’t traditionally been determined at the federal level.
Following Obama’s endorsement, a number of high-profile Democrats followed Obama’s lead and made similar statements in favor of marriage equality — such as House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn — as well as celebrities, such as actor Will Smith and rapper Jay-Z.
“Because I believe that equal treatment is a central tenet of our nation, I believe that extending the definition of marriage to committed relationships between two people, irrespective of their sex, is the right thing to do and will not, in any way, undermine the institution of marriage so important to our society nor impose a threat to any individual marriage,” Hoyer said. “It will, however, extend the respect due to every one of our fellow citizens that we would want for ourselves and our children.”
The move was also positive in terms of financing for the Obama campaign. According to an analysis from National Public Radio, donations to Obama nearly tripled in the immediate period after the announcement. The campaign took in nearly $9 million over three days, compared to $3.4 million in the three previous days.