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Obama Supported Gay Marriage All Along, Says Obama's Former Political Adviser

David Axelrod speaks to reporters after a presidential debate in October of 2012.
Doug Pensinger
Getty Images
David Axelrod speaks to reporters after a presidential debate in October of 2012.

David Axelrod, the political strategist who helped President Obama triumph in 2008 and 2012, dropped a bombshell in his upcoming book: According to Time, which got its hands on an advance copy, Axelrod writes that President Obama has always supported gay marriage and he only opposed it for political expediency.

Time reports:

"Axelrod writes that he knew Obama was in favor of same-sex marriages during the first presidential campaign, even as Obama publicly said he only supported civil unions, not full marriages. Axelrod also admits to counseling Obama to conceal that position for political reasons. 'Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a "sacred union," ' Axelrod writes.

"The insider's account provides the clearest look yet at Obama's long-established flip-flop, one of the blemishes on his record as a progressive. The admission of Obama's embrace of deception also calls into question the President's stated embrace of a new kind of politics in 2008, when he promised to be unlike other politicians who change their views to match the political winds. 'Having prided himself on forthrightness, though, Obama never felt comfortable with his compromise and, no doubt, compromised position,' Axelrod writes. 'He routinely stumbled over the question when it came up in debates or interviews.'"

If you remember, Obama didn't embrace gay marriage until May of 2012. He did so with a big splash in an interview with ABC News, saying he had evolved on the issue and that it had become important to him personally to "go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married."

At the time, popular support for gay marriage was at a pivotal point, with a plurality of Americans favoring gay marriages. Since then, a strong majority of Americans say they support same-sex marriage.

The issue of whether Obama has supported gay marriage is at this point a question for Obama's legacy, because he is in is second and last term in office.

But, it could provoke some interesting questions for Hillary Clinton, who many believe will seek the Democratic nomination for president.

Fresh Air's Terry Gross had a much-discussed 12-minute exchange with the former secretary of state last summer.

Terry pressed Clinton on whether she had taken a position against gay marriage because of politics.

"I think you're trying to say I used to be opposed and now I'm in favor and I did it for political reasons, and that's just flat wrong," Clinton said. "So let me just state what I feel like you are implying and repudiate it. I have a strong record, I have a great commitment to this issue, and I am proud of what I've done and the progress we're making."

Fresh Air aired an interview with Axelrod today.

His book, Believer: My Forty Years in Politics, goes on sale Feb. 10.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.