WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama made history on Wednesday by announcing his support for same-sex marriage, making him the first sitting U.S. president ever to do so.
But his decision may have been less a profile in courage and more a response to intensifying pressure from his own party and what appears to have been a gaffe by his second-in-command.
Let's look back at when Obama's evolution on same-sex marriage began. It was 1996, and he supported gay marriage.
As a little-known candidate for the Illinois State Senate, he filled out and signed a questionnaire indicating, "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."
It was all regression from there.
During his 2008 presidential run, Obama said he opposed gay marriage but supported civil unions. He told MTV in Nov. 2008 that he believed marriage is "between a man and a woman" and that he was "not in favor of gay marriage." But at the same time, he said he opposed Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that would ban same-sex marriage.
In August 2010, a day after a California court found Proposition 8 unconstitutional, Obama's senior advisor David Axelrod reiterated that the president was still opposed to gay marriage and believed it should be an issue for the states to decide.
But that 1996 questionnaire didn't go away.
When White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer was asked about it in June 2011, he said someone else filled it out. White House spokesman Jay Carney later clarified that Pfeiffer was referring to a different questionnaire, but still wouldn't say if Obama had once supported marriage equality.
And then, over the past few years, another metamorphosis started taking place. Obama began using one of two lines when asked directly where he stood on the issue: He was either "evolving," or he flatly said he wasn't "going to make news on that today."
In the meantime, Democrats at all levels of government and political stature began to pass him by in their support of gay marriage. Twenty-two Democratic senators, 10 co-chairs of Obama's reelection campaign, nine state Democratic Party Chairs and more than a dozen House Democrats have already endorsed the idea of including gay marriage in the 2012 Democratic Party platform.
Two of Obama's cabinet secretaries -- Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan and Education Secretary Arne Duncan -- have said that they support same-sex marriage. And the biggest news, of course, was Vice President Joe Biden unexpectedly announcing Sunday that he is "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex couples getting married.
Reporters pounced on Carney this week for another update on Obama's views in the wake of Biden's statement, but the White House spokesman stuck to his line about an evolution being underway: "It is what it was."
Now that Obama's so-called evolution is complete, no more will his paralysis on the issue be the subject of fodder on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," where Jon Stewart and "White House correspondent" Jon Oliver recently examined where, exactly, Obama's evolution has taken him since the 1996 questionnaire.
The president "absolutely, unequivocally supported it, Jon," Oliver said of Obama's 1996 stance on gay marriage. "Then he evolved."
"Into what?" Stewart asked.
Oliver replied, "A candidate, Jon."
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