WASHINGTON — A day after President Barack Obama strongly backed gay marriage, his campaign sought a political dividend Thursday, condemning Mitt Romney for wanting to turn “backwards on equality.”
In an Internet video slamming the Republican presidential candidate for backing a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, the Obama camp portrayed Romney as an extremist who would tear away rights from gay couples.
The spot featured a clip of former Republican president George W. Bush saying that gay couples should not be denied the rights of civil partnerships, in an effort to position Romney out of the mainstream on the issue.
After months of personal and political reflection, Obama on Wednesday took a gamble and became the first US president to back gay wedlock.
“I’ve 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 in an interview with ABC News.
The clip was featured in the new Obama video, and juxtaposed with Romney’s own statement on gay marriage: “I indicated my view I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender and I don’t favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name.”
Senior Obama aides say they are unsure how the gay marriage decision will play out politically.
Some analysts believe that Obama will reap benefits by firing up his liberal base and energize gay and lesbian fundraisers by speaking out on an issue which polls show is being accepted by more and more Americans.
But others feel he could pay a price with more conservative and religious voters in key battleground states like Ohio and North Carolina that he hopes to capture en route to winning a second White House term.
The White House insisted Thursday that Obama was not exploiting the gay marriage story for political gain, when asked why his camp was attacking Romney on an issue which he said should be discussed in a respectful way.
“You can respect somebody and strongly disagree,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.
“He’s respectful of those who don’t agree with him on same-sex marriage.
“He vehemently disagrees with those who would act to deny Americans’ rights or act to take away rights that have been established in states.”
Romney said on Fox News Thursday that his “preference” was to “encourage the marriage of a man and a woman and (to) continue to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.”
“I respect the right of the president to reach the conclusion he has. And I presume he respects my right to hold to the position I have had from the beginning of this topic being raised,” Romney said.