The responses to Obama’s announcement fell along strict partisan lines, with Democrats rushing to applaud Obama’s position — which he defined as “personal” — while Republicans mostly stayed silent. Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill Defense bill moves forward with lawmakers thinking about McCain Overnight Energy: EPA moves to roll back chemical plant safety rule | NASA chief says humans contribute to climate change | Pruitt gets outside lawyer MORE (R-Okla.) released a statement later in the afternoon reaffirming his belief in traditional marriage and calling Obama’s announcement “not surprising.”

“He is trying to shore up his liberal base in an election year,” Inhofe said in a statement. “Even though he had previously said that he did not support gay marriage, his actions have indicated otherwise all along.”

Obama has said his position on gay marriage was “evolving,” but faced renewed pressure this week following statements made by members of his administration — including Vice President Biden — indicating their own support for making same-sex marriage legal. He told ABC News on Wednesday: "At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

Gay Republican groups suggested Obama’s endorsement came too late to help many of the states that have passed amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman, effectively a ban against legalizing gay marriage. North Carolina became the nineteenth such state on Tuesday. Six states, along with the District of Columbia, allow same-sex marriages.