Megan Cloherty, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - President Obama took a position on gay marriage Wednesday after political and social pressure mounted in the last few days.
"I've been going through an evolution on this issue," Obama told ABC News. "I've always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally."
The president said he had been hesitating on gay marriage partially because he thought civil unions would be sufficient.
Meanwhile, his likely GOP opponent in the 2012 election, Mitt Romney, reaffirmed his stance on gay marriage during a campaign appearance in Denver.
"My position is the same on gay marriage as it has been from he beginning, and that is that marriage is a relationship between a man and woman," Romney said. "That's a posture that I've had as governor and I have that today."
Obama has spoken before about his stance on same-sex marriage during his campaign, but has never shared his feelings on the issue as president.
"It's something that a lot of people behind the scenes at least initially believed the president really in his heart felt his way and it was finally time for him, he decided, to come out and say it," Joe Williams, POLITICO's White House reporter, told WTOP.
But some political experts say Obama would likely have kept his thinking private if not for Vice President Joe Biden's statements last weekend.
"Certainly that was the first domino to fall, at least fall publicly," Williams said. "And that's because it set the White House scrambling to try and walk back his remarks. That created an even bigger furor and that came to the moment when the president finally had to step to the mic, metaphorically speaking, and say what his position was once and for all."
Taking a stance on such a socially charged issue is a risk during a presidential campaign, but Williams says the president is normally known for making cautious, calculated political decisions.
"What he gains here - besides dominating the news cycle from Wednesday probably all the way through the Sunday shows - [is] an energized gay community, an energized gay support base, that had been kind of moribund because he hadn't come out and declared his intentions, so to speak."
Beyond the support of same-sex voters, Williams says Obama's statement also appeals to the youth vote and to Hollywood.
"[The President] is setting out to have dinner with George Clooney soon and this will probably be the buzz on the west coast."
From a financial perspective, some financial experts say this decision could make the federal government more competitive in its hiring.
"The federal government is one of the biggest employers in country, but because federal law doesn't allow gay marraige, what you find is that you lose some of your best same-sex employees to a diff company," CNN Money's Ali Velshi told WTOP.
"Because most Fortune 500 companies recognize gay marriage and give same-sex couples the same financial benefits, from a competitive perspective, it's good for the federal government."
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