President Obama met yesterday with a group of liberal bloggers, including Joe Sudbay of AmericaBlog and AmericaBlogGay, and there was an interesting exchange on the subject of marriage equality:

“I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage. But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine,” Obama said in response to a question from Joe Subday of Americablog.

“I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships. I have staff members who are in committed, monogamous relationships, who are raising children, who are wonderful parents. And I care about them deeply,” Obama continued. “And so while I’m not prepared to reverse myself here, sitting in the Roosevelt Room at 3:30 in the afternoon, I think it’s fair to say that it’s something that I think a lot about. That’s probably the best you’ll do out of me today.”

Later, Obama seemed to suggest that legalization of gay marriage is inevitable. “The one thing I will say today is I think it’s pretty clear where the trend lines are going,” he added.

Gay rights activists, many of whom have been deeply disappointed in Obama for failing thus far to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act–and for continuing to defend those laws in the courts, were heartened by Obama’s comments. Some said Obama seemed to be laying the groundwork to change his position on same-sex marriage before a likely re-election campaign in 2012.

“Presidents don’t usually think out loud unless they intend to send a signal that they are shifting a position,” said Richard Socarides, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay issues. “I think [Obama] realizes he can’t run as a gay rights advocate in 2012 and be against marriage equality. People see domestic partnerships are separate but equal.”

Socarides is right. Presidents don’t just casually think out loud.

Even if it’s a political move, and you can be sure that it is, it’s a nice change to see political moves in our direction instead of away from the gay community.  And marriage equality is now the mainstream position, so this, in theory, should not be difficult.