Washington — Before President Obama left the White House on Tuesday morning to fly to an event in Albany, several aides intercepted him in the Oval Office. Within minutes it was decided: the president would endorse same-sex marriage on Wednesday, completing a wrenching personal transformation on the issue.
As described by several aides, that quick decision and his subsequent announcement in a hastily scheduled network television interview were thrust on the White House by 48 hours of frenzied will-he-or-won’t-he speculation after Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. all but forced the president’s hand by embracing the idea of same-sex unions in a Sunday talk show interview.
Advisers say now that Mr. Obama had intended since early this year to define his position sometime before Democrats nominate him for re-election in September. Yet many of the president’s allies believed he would not do so, trusting instead in his strong support from gay voters for having ended a ban on openly gay people in the military and disavowing a federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Such caution was understandable, the allies said, given the unpredictable fallout the president would face by taking a clear stand on one of the most contentious and politically charged social issues of the day, before what is likely to be a close election. Mr. Obama’s closest advisers say only the timing was in question. Mr. Biden’s unexpected remarks undoubtedly accelerated the timetable.
Initially Mr. Obama and his aides expected that the moment would be Monday, when the president was scheduled to be on “The View,” the ABC daytime talk show, which is popular with wome