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NEWS ANALYSIS: President Obama takes a big risk by endorsing marriage equality

We all believed in 2008 that Barack Obama was an ally of equal rights, but we chafed as Candidate Obama seemed to backtrack on his support for marriage equality. Still, we overwhelmingly supported his candidacy for President and helped get him elected.

To date, Obama has been the gay-friendliest president in American history, ushering in the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and backing other legislation to advance the steady march toward full equality for LGBT Americans.

Still, it took more than three years into his presidency for Obama to finally “evolve” completely on the marriage issue. One simple sentence told it all: "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," the President said.

Now we know that Obama is fully on our side.

Obama’s low-key change of heart, shared during Wednesday’s taping of a TV interview that airs today, belies the enormous historical and cultural moment in American history. Obama makes history as the first sitting President to endorse marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.

For LGBT Americans who have faced a lifetime of snickers, teasing, bullying, beatings, discrimination and worse, this was a shiny moment that we shall never forget. Amid our joy and excitement, though, many of us took a sobering moment to worry that the President’s bravery could cost him the 2012 presidential election. Some of the key swing states such as North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia are dominated by religiously conservative voters, and North Carolina voters on Tuesday encased discrimination against gays and lesbians in the state constitution by passing Amendment One to ban same-sex marriage.

LGBT activists and their allies immediately praised the President for his courage to do the right thing, telling the nation that he supports fairness and equality. "Treat others the way you would want to be treated," Obama said in the interview, echoing the biblical Golden Rule.

Gay and lesbian couples who cannot marry in the U.S. are denied more than 1,200 legal benefits granted to opposite-sex married couples, creating an unfair system of taxation as well.

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, immediately reiterated his adamant opposition to marriage equality. Romney has a notorious history of flip-flopping on the marriage issue and on LGBT rights in general, but in 2012 he has cozied up to the Far Right and even signed the infamous NOM Pledge demanded by the known anti-gay hate group. Romney is a Mormon, and we all know how many millions of dollars the Mormon church has poured into anti-gay efforts nationwide and that Romney secretly donated to the "Yes on 8" campaign in support of California's Proposition 8.

Romney's handlers said today that the GOP candidate would campaign this year for a U.S. Constitution amendment to ban marriage equality nationwide. The U.S. Constitution requires that three-fourths of states to approve any proposed amendment, or 38 of the 50 states. To date, 31 states have passed state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, giving you a clue at the nation's pulse despite numerous polls showing that a thin majority of Americans support full marriage equality.

For the LGBT community, if marriage equality is a high priority in choosing a presidential candidate, then Obama is your man. For most Americans, however, marriage equality ranks as the lowest priority, hitting only 28%, while the economy is No. 1 at 86%, according to the latest Pew Research Poll.

The question today is whether Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality will make much difference in the 2012 presidential election.