By Mike Lillis - 05/10/12 05:55 PM EDT
President Obama's historic endorsement of gay marriage is worth any political backlash against Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said this week.
Obama on Wednesday ended his years-long vacillation on same-sex marriage by squarely backing it — a move leading some conservatives to predict the Democrats will pay dearly at the polls in November.
"We come here to do a job for the American people, not to hold a job," Pelosi said during her weekly press briefing in the Capitol.
"What he [Obama] did was to advance the cause of civil rights," she added. "It's more important than any political consequences."
Pressed about the potential political risks for Democrats, Pelosi didn't back down.
"This is an issue that I brought with me to the Congress, that I care about very much. So the day after the president made a statement that was so historic — so important for who we are as Americans — it's hard for me to adjust to a place [where we ask] whether we're going to win or lose votes over it," she said. "I love campaigns and I like politics — I don't want to seem removed from it — but this is why we come to office, to do some good things. And so we can't say, 'Well, we would have done a good thing but we can't do it because we'll lose votes if we do.' "
Obama on Wednesday became the first sitting president to back same-sex marriage after years maintaining he was opposed but his views were "evolving."
"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," Obama said in an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts.
Democrats and human-rights groups were quick to hail the move as a historic step in the country's fight against discrimination. But opponents of gay marriage warned that, politically, Obama and the Democrats had just shot themselves in the foot.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said Obama's remarks will cripple the Democrats among independent voters, particularly in swing states like Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Nevada.
"God is the author of marriage, and we will not let an activist politician like Barack Obama who is beholden to gay-marriage activists for campaign financing ... turn marriage into something political that can be redefined according to presidential whim," Brown said in a statement. "The definition of marriage was already headed for the ballot in four states this fall; now it will be one of the defining issues of the presidential election."
Pelosi — who signed an email blast from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Wednesday asking for support for gay marriage — rejected the notion that the party is hoping to fundraise or otherwise gain politically from Obama's endorsement.
"Our statement from the DCCC, and from me, had nothing to do with money, nothing to do with money," Pelosi said. "Anything about the politics is incidental."
Pelosi also maintained there is no contradiction between her Catholic faith and her support for same-sex marriage.
"My religion," she said, "compels me … to be against discrimination of any kind."
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the first openly gay member in congressional history, conceded this week that Obama's endorsement is not without political risk. But Frank also predicted that any backlash against the Democrats would be offset by gay-marriage supporters who will be newly energized to get to the polls.
"[T]he president’s decision today was [not] entirely without some political risk, but I believe it will be clear in the days ahead that this will cost him no votes, since those opposed to legal equality for LGBT people were already inclined to oppose him, and that it will make it easier for us to mobilize the people in this country who oppose discrimination to help reelect him," Frank said in a statement.
A Gallup poll released this week found that Americans are split in half on the issue of gay marriage, with 50 percent supporting it and 48 percent opposed.