How Obama got to "I do" on gay marriage

When I spoke with Griffin a few days later, he recalled Obama’s saying, “I think you can tell from what I have done so far the direction that I am headed.” The president was referring to his successful push to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prohibited openly gay men and lesbians from serving, and his administration’s decision to stop supporting in federal court the Defense of Marriage Act, a Clinton-era law known as DOMA that denied federal spousal benefits to gay couples who married where it was already legal, in five states and the District of Columbia.

“The sense I got from him,” Griffin said, “was, ‘Give me credit — look what I have already done.’ ” But Obama’s campaign for a second term was in full swing, and he was not going to be pushed any further on the issue. A few months later at a fund-raiser in Los Angeles, Griffin had a private conversation with Michelle Obama, in which she indicated that her husband had given as much support as he could at the time.

Her message, he told his team, was clear: “Hang in there with us, and we’ll be with you after the election.”

Despite the president’s stated opposition, even his top advisers didn’t believe that he truly opposed allowing gay couples to marry. “He has never been comfortable with his position,” David Axelrod, then one of his closest aides, told me.