Thanks to Saturday's historic vote in the New York state senate, same-sex marriage is now legal in six states, but the battle to extend it to all American citizens will still be long and difficult. The fight over gay marriage will be played out in both America's courts as well as its political chambers, as politicians have for years used it as fodder to rally support one way or another.
It's been a tricky issue for President Barack Obama, who has largely tiptoed around it, all while openly courting the backing of the gay and lesbian community.
After the New York vote, an Obama spokesman gave the line the president has been using repeatedly when asked about gay marriage, which avoids any direct advocacy.
"The President has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples," White House spokesman Shin Inouye said, according to ABC News. "That's why he has called for repeal of the so-called 'Defense of Marriage Act' and determined that his Administration would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in the courts. The states should determine for themselves how best to uphold the rights of their own citizens. The process in New York worked just as it should."New York 6th state to legalize gay marriage
Advocates: N.Y. vote will advance gay marriage
That statement is very similar to what Obama said at a sold-out, $1,250-per-head fundraising dinner with prominent gay and lesbian activists in New York last week, the Associated Press reports. To boil it down, Obama is basically saying he supports the rights of gay people, while avoiding answering how he feels about gay marriage specifically by shifting the responsibility for it to "the states."
How long he can keep it up is anyone's guess, but the president and his party hold a natural advantage in the passionate and often deep-pocketed gay community over any Republican in the 2012 election, as Republicans as a whole have been very consistent in their opposition to allowing same-sex marriage.
While it was Democratic President Bill Clinton who signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law, Republicans have long been its most vocal supporters. The close vote on gay marriage in the New York state senate saw a few Republicans flip in favor of it at the last second, but only one Democrat voted "nay." When the Maryland senate voted on gay marriage earlier this year (an effort that eventually stalled in the House of Delegates there), only one Republican voted in favor of it, The Baltimore Sun reports.
Still, Obama's hesitancy to embrace the issue in a clear way could hurt him and his party, and many gay activists have been grumbling over the president's uncertain stance.
Michelangelo Signorile, a prominent New York journalist, famous for outing celebrities in the 1990s, told Politico that Obama's obtuse stance on gay marriage - especially in the light of recent strides - may be hurting his standing in the community. Signorile pointed to Laura Bush's open support of gay marriage as an example of how the president could be hurting himself politically.
"A Democratic president should be way ahead on this issue," Signorile told POLITICO. "He has to go all the way."