The historic and politically risky announcement by President Barack Obama supporting same-sex marriage comes at a time when the largely Catholic Hispanic community is also evolving its opinion on the matter, experts consulted on the subject on Thursday told Efe.
After two days of intense internal debate, stirred up by the remarks in favor of such unions by Vice President Joe Biden, Obama finally expressed his opinion on Wednesday in an interview ABC, saying that he believes that it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry.
However, he acknowledged that his announcement, in a year when the election campaign appears to be a very tight race, could hurt him with some sectors of the electorate.
“The politics, it’s not clear how they cut in some places that are going to be pretty important in this electoral map. It may hurt me,” Obama told ABC’s Robin Roberts.
The religious right has found another weapon against Obama, and the president is also facing an electoral risk among progressively-minded groups if his words are interpreted as being mere lip service designed to attract votes.
In 2008, candidate Obama promised Hispanics immigration reform only later to blame Congress for his inability to implement it. At that time he received 67 percent of the Hispanic vote and, according to authorities, the roughly 10 million Evangelical Hispanic voters have increased their political weight since then.
Experts consulted by Efe on Thursday agree that although it’s a very volatile issue, Obama did not have the votes of conservatives prior to his remarks anyway.
And, they say, the main motivation for Latinos on election day will be issues that affect their pocketbook, just as for other voters.
The collective attitude of the U.S. public toward gay marriage - a dilemma with huge political, moral and cultural repercussions - has “evolved,” just like Obama says his has done.
Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of the Freedom to Marry group, said that Obama “will come out winning because voters who already support him wanted him to openly back homosexual marriages.”
“The issue has growing support among Democrats, youth, Latinos and blacks ... They are evolving on the subject. This is going to mobilize them in favor of Obama because the (Republican) alternative would throw us back,” Wolfson said.
Vanessa Cardenas, director of the Center for American Progress’ Project 2050, also believes that Obama’s newly clarified stance will not scare away Latino voters “because it’s not something that’s really a priority for them and because the Latino community is evolving.”
“Recent NBC/Wall Street Journal, Latino Decisions and NCLR surveys ... show that Latinos have been adjusting their ideas. Latinos show a great deal of empathy toward others and they are sensitive about those, like them, who are suffering discrimination,” Cardenas emphasized.
Among Hispanics, who are normally conservative on social issues, support for gay marriage stands at 54 percent, above the national average, according to a study released last month by the National Council of La Raza and the firm Social Science Research Solutions.
A 1996 Gallup poll found that Americans opposed gay marriage by 68 to 27 percent. Now, according to a Gallup survey released Tuesday, 50 percent favor it versus 48 percent who continue to oppose it.