TAMPA, Fla. - Florida lawmakers and local experts are weighing in on President Barack Obama's announcement Wednesday that he supports gay marriage.
UT Associate Professor Scott Paine said he believes there is some political calculation involved in the president's decision. "The Obama administration wasn't looking at trying to recruit Republicans to vote for his campaign, nor were they trying to recruit Democrats. Where this breaks in his favor, not by a lot but some, is with Independents," he said.
Professor Paine said the president could not have stayed silent. "That would have undermined the energy within the Democratic liberal ranks for his campaign and would have made him look very much like simply someone trying to dodge an issue," he said.
Florida State Representative Rick Kriseman said he's very pleased with Obama's opinion, calling it courageous, especially during an election year. "For him to do that, I thought, said a lot about who he is and what he stands for and what his principles are," he said.
However, the chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party said he's disappointed in the president's position, but not surprised.
"What this president is all about is trying to pull more and more control up to the federal level. What ought to be a state's issue, and has been handled up until now as a state's issue, he's trying to make a federal issue," said Art Wood.
Florida's own ban on same sex marriage, Amendment 2, passed in 2008, sharply dividing the state. But despite the controversy, Professor Paine said the announcement could add momentum to the Obama campaign.
"What it does is, it energizes the activists on both sides, and it will mobilize them, certain groups, to get out and fight harder, which will effect voting," said Professor Paine.
He added Obama's timing was good, as this announcement won't be on the front burner come November.