President Barack Obama entered uncharted territory for a sitting president on Wednesday when he openly endorsed gay marriage on national television, and that statement is expected to ignite a political firestorm locally as voters in Minnesota gear up to vote on the marriage amendment.
Experts say Obama's comments will likely drive more people on both sides of the issue to the polls now that Minnesotans are being asked if they want to amend the state's constitution to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
Rep. Steve Gottwalt, who lead the charge for the constitutional referendum, called Obama's comments disingenuous because, as a senator, Obama supported the Defense of Marriage Act.
"It's presidential year politics," Gottwalt said. "As much as he says it's up to the states -- then why come out and make this statement at this point?"
Hamline University political science professor David Schultz agrees that the announcement was likely a strategic decision made by the Obama campaign, making the issue central to this presidential race.
"He came out when he did -- now -- to sort of energize his base, especially among liberal supporters -- and gay rights advocates, especially among young people," he said.
Romney wasted no time responding, saying that he still believes marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman only.
Yet, Schultz said the announcement also creates a link that ties his re-election to the amendment in Minnesota.
Of course, defeating the marriage amendment is not likely to come in a landslide vote, and the president's endorsement will certainly fire up conservative Republicans.
Obama made his announcement In the wake of North Carolina's decision to become another state banning gay marriage within its borders.
"I've been going through an evolution on this issue," Obama said. "I've always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally.
During an exclusive interview, Obama added that his endorsement merely reflects his personal view and the issue should still be up to the states to decide. Still, it will be interesting to see how the nationally-announced opinion affects swing states in November.
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