Between the Lines By Mark Halperin

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Both risk and opportunity accompany President Barack Obama's same-sex-marriage endorsement, but neither will come close to trumping the economy as the decisive issue in November ... Obama was on track to make his declaration at some point before Election Day, but there's no doubt his hand was forced by Vice President Joe Biden's premature pronouncement of his own support ... Now the VP is in the doghouse for breaking one of Team Obama's cardinal rules: no one puts POTUS in a corner ... Although Biden has incurred the wrath of the President's staff and has been mocked on late-night TV, his gaffe has made him a history-making hero on the left and solidified his chances for a 2016 presidential bid ... The announcement helps Obama with young, gay, lesbian and urban voters, gay-friendly media and some wealthy liberals who, disappointed with a range of Obama Administration policies, were sitting on their wallets ... But it hurts the President with broad pockets of rural and exurban voters in swing states like Ohio, Iowa, Virginia and Florida, conservatives who are energized by a controversial issue and a number of religious leaders, including some who are African American ... The greatest indication that public opinion on same-sex marriage has shifted over the past few years: almost no prominent GOP elected officials raised the issue after the day of the endorsement; party leaders, almost to a person, changed the topic to the economy when asked about Obama's now evolved stance ... Besides, at a time when Republicans are trying to minimize the impression that their party is intolerant, the last thing they want is to pick a big fight over personal liberty and morality ... Rest assured, they will quietly communicate Obama's position to targeted voters via religious organizations and mail as the election nears ... And if Obama loses narrowly, some of his supporters are sure to look back and wonder if publicly backing gay marriage cost him his job.

Q+A

Ted Olson. On Obama and gay marriage

In 2009 conservative lawyer Ted Olson, the Solicitor General under George W. Bush, joined with liberal legal lion David Boies to challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage, a case now under appeals-court review. TIME spoke with Olson about the latest maneuvering on same-sex marriage.

What does President Obama's backing mean for the gay-marriage movement?

It's a very significant step in the right direction. Now, he still takes the position that this is up to the states. That's a very significant holdback, and I wish he would go the full distance. If you leave it up to the states, there are going to be people living in some states that might have to wait for another 40 or 50 years.

What's the next step his Administration could take?

I look forward to the time when the Administration might file a friend-of-the-court brief to support our challenge to Proposition 8. That would be exceedingly important and a very welcome next step. It's just aspirational on my part. I have no idea whether it would happen.

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