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Gays Welcome Obama's Same-Sex Marriage Decision

May 10, 2012
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Same-sex marriage is an issue that stirs emotions. And let's hear more reaction now to the president's statement.

In a moment, we'll go to Colorado, where a political showdown is looming over a bill recognizing same-sex civil unions. But let's begin with NPR's Richard Gonzales in San Francisco.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: The news of Mr. Obama's support for same-sex marriage was not even an hour old when the word had reached the street in the Castro District, San Francisco's predominantly gay neighborhood.

KAREN ROMANKO: Oh, I think it's awesome.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROMANKO: And I didn't hear it. Did that just come out now?

GONZALES: Yeah.

ROMANKO: Oh, my God. Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Got to check CNN now.

ROMANKO: Yeah. I know. Wow. This is Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I think it's a great thing.

ROMANKO: Oh, I think it's awesome.

GONZALES: Karen Romanko is a receptionist in this city's financial district.

ROMANKO: I think it's wonderful. I didn't know if I'd ever see it my lifetime, but think it's amazing. And I have tons of friends that want to get married, so I think this is amazing.

GONZALES: That same sense of shock and surprise was pervasive all over the neighborhood.

DAVID WALOVICH: Is that true?

GONZALES: It's absolutely true.

WALOVICH: I think he's a smart man for coming to that conclusion.

GONZALES: David Walovich is a catering manager at a local hotel. He says he's always assumed that President Obama would come out for same-sex marriage. Walovich says he just didn't think it would come before the election.

WALOVICH: I'm sure it's the pressure of the politics of the reelection. And he said he would move toward that direction eventually. It just took him a little longer than most people thought. I think it's a big risk for him to make such an announcement.

GONZALES: One of the risks is that the president is addressing the polarizing social issue at a time when voters want to know what he's doing about the economy. A few blocks away, William Lynn, an attorney, says he's thrilled that the president spoke up for marriage equality, but wonders about his timing.

WILLIAM LYNN: I think he was forced by Vice President Biden's comments. But it's better late than never, right?

GONZALES: But even if Biden's comments over the weekend forced the issue, Lynn says Mr. Obama's new position could be a net-plus for the president's reelection bid. For one, he'll be assured a lot more financial support from gays and lesbians. And Lynn says people who oppose gay marriage probably wouldn't vote for the president, anyway.

LYNN: It's not going to help with the conservative vote, but he might get some of the libertarian people, actually, the uber-libertarian and super-liberal people who might have been dissatisfied with President Obama's first-term performance.

GONZALES: Meanwhile, gay rights activists here were over the moon. Rebekah Orr is a spokeswoman for Equality California. She says when she heard the president's comments, she was personally overcome.

REBEKAH ORR: And to have the, you know, person who is the highest authority in the land say no matter who you are, no matter who you love, you ought to be able to marry the person that you love and enjoy all of the happiness and security that marriage brings, it's just a really big moment in this movement and in our country.

GONZALES: And Orr says even if some Americans oppose the president's support for gay marriage, at least they will know where he stands. Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.