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Obama urged to pick side on same-sex marriage

Bryn Weese, Senior Washington Correspondent
U.S. President Barack Obama. (AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN)

U.S. President Barack Obama. (AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN)

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. President Barack Obama couldn't be clearer on same-sex marriage, according to his spokespeople: He doesn't support it, except he kind of does, and his views on the issue are still "evolving."

Following comments over the weekend from Vice-President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan that they support legalizing same-sex marriage, the Obama campaign has been furiously trying to change the channel from this politically charged topic, all the while waffling on what the president thinks.

But now, Obama's supporters and critics are demanding to know where he stands on the issue.

On Tuesday, former Republican New York governor George Pataki told reporters the president, like Biden, has to pick a side.

"Either you're for something or you're against it, and Vice-President Biden has made it plain he's for it. President Obama, on the other hand, is looking to have both sides," Pataki said on a conference call with reporters, adding many are concerned Obama may have plans to act on the issue if he's elected to a second term.

"I think the American people deserve to know where President Obama stands today and where he will stand next year on this issue."

Gay rights advocates, too, want to know where the president stands.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, applauded Biden's endorsement of gay marriage in a statement on the advocacy group's website and pushed Obama to do the same.

"We are encouraged by Vice-President Biden's comments, who rightly articulated that loving and committed gay and lesbian couples should be treated equally," the statement reads. "Now is the time for President Obama to speak out for full marriage equality for same-sex couples."

And a new Gallup poll released Tuesday shows the issue evenly splits the American people, with 50% in support of legal marriage for gay couples and 48% opposed to it.

Obama's reluctance to pick a side is no doubt rooted in the high stakes of November's election, particularly in key swing states like North Carolina, which Obama narrowly won in 2008.

On Tuesday, North Carolinians voted on a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages and civil unions outright, which supporters of the ban say would make it harder for future governors or state governments to pursue legalizing gay marriages.

Also Tuesday, Obama cancelled an upcoming trip to the state.

So not only could supporting gay marriage cost Obama North Carolina in November, it would also energize those who oppose it nationwide to raise money, volunteer and work hard to defeat him.

Conversely, if he continues to oppose gay marriage, then key elements of his Democrat support might not enthusiastically raise money, volunteer and work hard to re-elect him.

Obama's all-but-certain Republican rival, Mitt Romney, made clear during the hotly contested GOP primary that, if elected president, he would propose a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.