NEW YORK (AP) — President Barack Obama has seen an uptick in fundraising since he announced his shift on gay marriage, with some Democratic rainmakers citing renewed interest from gay and lesbian donors who had been urging the president to clarify his stance on the divisive social issue.
"The phone calls went on until one in the morning after the president spoke — people calling saying 'Where do I go, what can I do to help, what events are coming up,'" said Robert Zimmerman, a Long Island, N.Y., Obama bundler. "People I've been seeking out for campaign support for months have been calling me saying, 'I'm ready to give.'"
Obama's campaign has declined to say how much it has collected since the announcement but some staffers have asked supporters to give money as a way of expressing their approval. Following the Obama interview with ABC News, Rufus Gifford, Obama's national finance director, said in a posting to the campaign website that "if you're proud of our president, this is a great time to make a donation to the campaign."
Chad Griffin, an Obama bundler and incoming president of the gay advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, said most prominent gay donors had been supporting Obama all along despite his reluctance to champion gay marriage. Most had already given the maximum contribution to his campaign, Griffin said. But he said Obama's announcement had boosted enthusiasm among many gay donors.
"There was a tad bit of uncomfortableness because of his position on marriage, even though most people saw where he was headed," Griffin said. "The thing he did (Wednesday) cleared any uncomfortableness anyone had."
Obama said Wednesday he supported gay marriage, marking a shift in his personal view on the issue after once opposing it and saying more recently that his views were "evolving."
Even before the gay marriage news, Obama has long stressed his commitment to gay rights. The president repealed the military's 18-year-old ban on openly gay service members, called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and instructed the Justice Department last year to stop enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
Some gay rights advocates have pressed Obama to sign an executive order barring discrimination against gays and lesbians who work for companies with federal contracts.
Obama was attending a New York fundraiser Monday with gay and lesbian donors hosted by singer Ricky Martin, his first fundraising event with gay supporters since his announcement. The president is scheduled to attend a major fundraiser with gay supporters in Los Angeles on June 6, with tickets priced as high as $25,000 per couple. Griffin, who is co-hosting the event, said he was confident it would sell out.
At least one leading gay activist has said he will attend the June 6 event after pledging to withhold support for Obama if the president did not embrace gay marriage.
Lance Black, and Academy Award-winning screenwriter based in Los Angeles, penned a column in the Hollywood Reporter last month saying he would not contribute to or vote for Obama and urged other gay activists to withhold support as well. Obama's statement Wednesday changed his mind, Black said.
Now I can do all I can to help him financially. I am going to go big, and I'm not alone there," Black said. "He blew me away (Wednesday). I walked around for the first time in three years thinking, 'Yes we can.'"
Thomas reported from Washington.