Evan Wolfson Debates Tony Perkins on Obama’s Support for Marriage
This debate originally aired on CBS News. To watch the full segment, click here.
(CBS News) President Obama's support for same-sex marriage will bring conservatives around to Mitt Romney's campaign, Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Christian organization Family Research Council, said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"I think that Barack Obama has helped fit that missing piece of intensity that Mitt Romney is going to need," Perkins told host Bob Schieffer.
The president on Wednesday said that "same sex couples should be able to get married." Since then, Perkins said he has heard from pastors across the nation who were previously sitting on the sidelines of the presidential campaign but are now ready to get involved.
Mr. Obama's position could be especially damaging for him in certain key states, Perkins said - 10 swing states have marriage amendments barring same-sex marriage, and several passed with strong support.
"I don't think the president did a political calculus to do this because if he did, he needs to go back to the calculator because it's a bad formula," Perkins said.
To watch the interview with Tony Perkins click on the video player above.
Singer and gay rights activist Clay Aiken disagreed with Perkins, pointing to the recent Gallup polling showing that 60 percent of Americans said Mr. Obama's support for same-sex marriage won't impact whether or not they support him.
"I think the people who say it will matter on either side of the equation, probably were not going to vote for Obama or were going to vote for President Obama anyway," he said. He added that gay men and women are going to be more energized to support the president now.
While voters in Aiken's home state of North Carolina recently passed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships, Aiken said voters in that key state "will support the fact that President Obama did speak out on principle... I think that we'd like to see politicians speak out on principle a little bit more and not just make a political calculation."
Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts also called Mr. Obama's position "clear and principled . . . because it's about convictions. It's not about politics." Patrick said he's worked with black clergy on the issue of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts to make the point the president must make now to voters: "We don't have to agree on everything before we work together on anything."
Ted Olsen, the former U.S. Solicitor General under President George W. Bush, has come out in support of same-sex marriage and has argued in court against California's Proposition 8. He said marriage and equality are both conservative values.
"The Republican Party is the party of Abraham Lincoln," he said. "Equality and independence and people that love one another, that wish to form a stable bond, are part of our economy, are part of our community - that should be a conservative value."
Newsweek contributor Mark McKinnon, who was one of President George W. Bush's campaign advisers and chief strategists, agreed that marriage equality should be a conservative value. While the issue is "not a political winner" for Mr. Obama, McKinnon said it shows the president "stands for what he believes in."
"President Bush won reelection in 2004, not because people liked him necessarily, or even agreed with his policies," McKinnon said. "They voted for him because they thought he had core principles that they'd fight for consistently."
Given the political implications of the recent vote on marriage in North Carolina, some have suggested the Democratic Party should move its convention this year to another state.
Evan Wolfson, president and founder of Freedom to Marry, said the convention should stay there.
"I think what we need in North Carolina and throughout the country is exactly what the president exemplified, which is talking about the conversations he's had in his life with real gay people, real families," he said. "These are the kinds of conversations that are changing hearts and minds. We're going to see more of those conversations in North Carolina."