Gay couples won a major victory for same sex marriage rights when Attorney General Holder announced this weekend that six more states would grant them federal benefits. Gay marriage states where federal benefits will be extended to same sex couples now make up a majority of the U.S states, numbering 32 states in total.

Gay Marriage Rights and Obama’s Turnabout

In states that legalize gay marriage, the latest announcement means that federal benefits, such as social security and veterans benefits, will now be available to married gay couples. The latest states to be added to the list of states extending federal benefits to same sex marriages are Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. On October 17th, Holder similarly announced the extension of benefits for seven states: Wisconsin, Nevada, Colorado, Oklahoma, Utah, Indiana, and Virginia.

When Obama was a U.S. Senate candidate, he took the position that marriage is between a man and a woman. Halfway through his first term as president, he said he wouldn’t support t same-sex marriage, mainly due to his beliefs about the traditional definitions of marriage.

However, Obama also expressed that “attitudes evolve, including mine.” It now appears that his attitude has taken a 180 degree turn. President Barack Obama announced in 2012, just six months before the November election, that he supported gay marriage. This was a reversal of his position on the controversial social issue. The reversal came after much pressure to define his stance on same-sex marriage, following Vice President Joe Biden’s and other top adviser’s endorsement of it.

Same-Sex Marriage Law and SCOTUS

Attorney General Holder’s announcement comes on the heels of recent support for gay marriage rights from the nation’s highest court. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear appeals from five states that sought to preserve bans on gay marriage. With their action, the number of states that same sex marriage is legal in numbers 32, plus the District of Columbia.

The Attorney General also confirmed that the Department of Justice determined that marriages performed in Indiana and Wisconsin this past June can be legally recognized. This statement sought to clear up some recent confusion. These marriages were performed right after federal district courts declared that those states’ bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, but later developments left the status of the marriages in doubt. With the Attorney General’s recent announcement, the gay couples married during that period are now assured that the federal government will recognize their unions.

Holder’s recent statements emphasized federal support for LGBT equality and continuing efforts to back the trend toward same sex marriage equality. With President Obama’s reversal in attitude, we’re likely to see other politician’s follow suit. With the societal shift toward acceptance of gay weddings, it’s becoming more politically risky for politicians to oppose same sex marriages.

What do you think is behind the shift in the political climate? Is it based upon the political clout and voting power of the gay population and its supporters? Are politicians afraid of losing the votes and/or approval of an increasingly influential demographic group? Do you think it even matters what the political motivations are?

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