President Barack Obama’s campaign has moved quickly to capitalise on his newly announced support for gay marriage, releasing an internet video that calls his Republican challenger backward on the issue.
Mr Obama broke from his long-claimed indecision on the issue to express outright support for the right of homosexual couples to marry.
Today his campaign released an internet video titled Mitt Romney: Backwards on Equality.
It opens with Mr Obama saying same-sex couples should have the right to marry, then shows a clip of Mr Romney saying yesterday that he opposes gay marriage and favours rolling back some rights for same-sex couples.
The video also seeks to portray Mr Romney as out of touch with the majority of Americans, saying even former Republican President George W Bush supported civil unions, a step short of marriage.
Obama aides hope the president’s support of gay marriage will energise Democrats, particularly younger voters, though they acknowledge the issue could hurt him with socially conservative independent voters.
Mr Obama’s changed stand on gay marriage will, however, find a welcome audience tonight in Hollywood. He will speak to the gala event of the political season - a sold-out, record-setting fundraiser at the home of film star George Clooney.
The event is a blockbuster mix of high celebrity, big money and committed activism. Hollywood is home to some of the most high-profile backers of gay marriage, and the dinner is expected to raise nearly $15m - an unprecedented amount for a single event. In a single evening, the Obama camp and the Democratic Party will collect more than Mr Romney has amassed in his best single month of fundraising.
Mr Obama will also hold fundraisers earlier in the day in Seattle, where he was expected to collect at least $3m toward his re-election effort.
His support of gay marriage will find huge support in yet another fundraiser on Monday in New York sponsored by gay and Latino Obama supporters.
“I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient,” Mr Obama said. But he added that now, “it is important for me personally to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
His support for gay marriage is a huge symbolic step, but it does nothing to change the legal status for gays who wish to wed in states where laws forbid such marriages. Mr Obama emphasised that he still believes the issue should be decided on a state-by-state basis.
A new Associated Press-GfK poll, meanwhile, showed Mr Obama’s popularity among women, minorities and independents gave him an early edge over Mr Romney. The poll was conducted before Mr Obama’s comments yesterday.
The nationwide poll found half of registered voters say they would back Mr Obama in November, while 42 % favour Mr Romney. About a quarter of voters indicated they are persuadable, meaning they are undecided or could change their minds before election day.
With the struggling American economy the primary concern of voters, the poll found the public divided over who would do a better job on the issue – 46% prefer Mr Obama, 44% prefer Mr Romney.