Obama's history on the issue does have a complicating twist. On a 1996 Illinois Senate race questionnaire, Obama (or more likely a staffer) wrote, "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages." Liberals take from this revelation the assumption that Obama's apparent flip was insincere.
But there is nothing in his record since he became a national political figure that should give them any reason to think he will revert to his supposedly pro-gay-marriage position. And if Obama actually does believe in same-sex marriage, that makes his public opposition to it worse than it would be if he were genuinely opposed. How is it in any way reassuring to liberals to suppose that a politician agrees with them while selling them down the river? Even if Obama's apparent flip isn't genuine, he nonetheless acts as if it were, rendering his supposedly silent support worthless in tangible political terms. Whatever he "really" thinks, Obama's stance on gay marriage is virtually indistinguishable from that of John McCain.
For some time, liberal politicians have taken a largely wink-and-nod approach to gay issues. They've done so with the excuse that the culture must catch up before any progress can be made (an excuse that conveniently doesn't apply to other liberal interest groups, such as unions and trial lawyers, that do very well when Democrats are in power). Obama paid tribute to this timeworn tactic recently when he told gay activists at the White House: "I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by words, but by the promises my administration keeps. By the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration."
Talking about "feelings" is a cuddly liberal pastime, and Obama's promise conjures up the phrase that Clinton famously entered into our political lexicon when he told an angry AIDS activist, "I feel your pain." Maybe now, when it comes to same-sex marriage, he finally does. But it would be nice to have a sitting president whose feelings translate into action.
Update: there's an excellent article in the Advocate about Obama. And it makes the very very good point that he's not going to do anything for us if we're not prepared to do it ourselves, meaning the hard work of activism.
If the wingnuts' voices are the only ones They hear, if the wingnuts are the only ones protesting and vocal, then don't be surprised if we don't get anything. We must be tireless in writing and promoting the cause TO THE POLITICIANS. And our families and allies too.