Longtime aide says Obama supported marriage equality long before he ‘evolved’

President Barack Obama tells ABC News' Robin Roberts that he supports same-sex marriage, on May 9, 2012.

President Barack Obama tells ABC News' Robin Roberts that he supports same-sex marriage, on May 9, 2012. ABC

President Barack Obama (left) and David Axelrod.AP Photos

President Barack Obama (left) and David Axelrod.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama feigned opposition to gay marriage for most of his political career, compromising his true beliefs out of concern it could hurt him with voters, Obama’s longtime political adviser disclosed in a new book.

David Axelrod, who served as a top White House adviser after helping Obama get elected, said Obama begrudgingly followed his advice that he would face strong opposition from African American religious leaders and others if he let it be known he supported gay marriage. He said Obama “modified his position” to say he supported civil unions – but not same-sex marriage.

“Having prided himself on forthrightness, though, Obama never felt comfortable with his compromise and, no doubt, compromised position,” Axelrod wrote in the memoir “Believer: My Forty Years in Politics,” released Tuesday.

Axelrod’s disclosure affirmed what was widely suspected for years: that Obama’s May 2012 announcement that he supported same-sex marriage (video) came long after the president had personally come to that conclusion.

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The year earlier, Obama and the White House had started saying his position was “evolving,” leading many to believe he was holding off on a public embrace of gay marriage for fear it could damage his re-election prospects.

“If Obama’s views were ‘evolving’ publicly, they were fully evolved behind closed doors,” Axelrod wrote.

When he finally said he felt gay marriage should be legal, it was only after Vice President Joe Biden declared his support for gay marriage during an interview, upping the pressure on Obama to make his current views clear ahead of the election.

Axelrod said Obama’s advisers told him it could cost him a few key states including North Carolina, but that Obama was “champing at the bit to announce his support.”

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