Former New York Gov. George Pataki called on President Barack Obama Tuesday to stop playing politics with the issue of gay marriage and to clearly state his position on the issue.
"It's very simple. Either you're for something or you're against it. And Vice President Biden has made it plain he's for it," Pataki said, referring to Biden's comments on Sunday that have caused a headache for the White House.
"President Obama, on the other hand, is looking to have both sides, where he's appealing to supporters of gay marriage but is afraid to alienate those who don't," Pataki said.
"His position is a lot like what he said to then-Prime Minister Medvedev at the open mic in Europe, where he said, 'Just wait til after the election, I'll have a lot more flexibility then,'" Pataki said. "I think the American people deserve to know today where President Obama stands today and where he will stand next year on this issue."
Pataki made his comments on a Republican National Committee conference call aimed at criticizing Obama's economic record on the same day the president is traveling to New York. He did not support gay marriage himself as governor, but has supported giving same-sex couples the same economic and legal privileges as heterosexual couples, and last year the New York Daily News said he was "pro-gay rights."
Same-sex marriage is on the front burner this week as North Carolinians are voting Tuesday to decide whether to add an amendment to the state constitution that defines marriage between a man and a woman as "the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized." Meanwhile, Obama's attempt to signal support for gay rights while still opposing gay marriage is an increasingly tenuous position. He was boxed in this weekend not only by Biden but also by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who said Monday that he believes same-sex marriage should be legal.
But in crucial swing states like Virginia, where the election this fall could turn for or against the president, the southwestern portion of the state is deeply conservative and would likely be energized to vote against Obama if he took a clear stand on the issue.
Pataki's comments are one of the first signs that Republicans are eager to press Obama on the issue, even though Romney, like most Republicans, is not in favor of gay marriage.
Also on the conference call, Pataki said that he is now "an enthusiastic supporter" of Mitt Romney's candidacy. Just two months ago, Pataki gave one of the most unenthusiastic endorsements of Romney's candidacy, saying that Romney was "not a perfect candidate" and that the former Massachusetts governor "has a lot of problems."
"It's hard for blue-collar families like mine to identify with him. It's hard for economic conservatives to identify with him. He needs to do more to reach out to the Latinos," Pataki said at the time. "But I think he has focus on that and on defeating President Obama as opposed to winning the next primary in the next state, and it's time to do that."
Yahoo News readers awarded Pataki first place in the "most tepid endorsement" competition.
But Pataki said Tuesday that he "felt good about [Romney's] candidacy" when he made the comments.
"I have never heard nor has there been a perfect candidate," he said.
UPDATE: 12:40 p.m. -- After Pataki called out Obama for trying to play both sides of the gay marriage issue, the Obama re-election campaign hit back with a statement going after Romney on the issue.
Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt sent out a statement with a headline playing off of Obama's comment last year that his view on the issue is "evolving."
"ON GAY RIGHTS," LaBolt's e-mail read, "ROMNEY HAS REGRESSED NOT EVOLVED."
Here is the full statement:
While he was busy campaigning at an auto supplier that would have ceased to exist if he were President and a community college for which he would cut funding, Mitt Romney deployed Governor Pataki today to call for consistency on gay rights. Governor Pataki must not be familiar with either the President’s record or Governor Romney’s. The President has done more to advance gay rights than any other president – from securing hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights for gay partners, to repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, to advancing equal rights and benefits for gays and lesbians. Governor Romney went from promising to be to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights to working to enshrine discrimination into the Constitution by passing a federal marriage amendment, personally funding efforts to roll back equal rights for gays and lesbians in states, and making clear he would have kept Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in place. The country has moved forward since 1994, when Governor Romney was supposedly an advocate on these issues, yet Governor Romney has moved backwards. He would turn back the clock on all of the progress this President has made to advance equal rights. On the issues important to gays and lesbians, Governor Romney hasn’t evolved – he has regressed.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly explained the marriage amendment that North Carolinians are voting on Tuesday.