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Obama shift on gay marriage unleashes Hollywood's star power (+video)

Just as Obama is heading to Hollywood for what promises to be a blockbuster fundraiser, his shift on gay marriage is getting rave reviews in the entertainment world.

By Staff writer / May 10, 2012

President Obama waves as he board Air Force One before his departure from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, May, 10. Obama is traveling to the West Coast for a series of campaign fundraisers.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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Studio City, Calif.

President Obama made history when he became the first sitting US president to announce support for gay marriage on Wednesday.

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The President's reversal on gay marriage has drawn Hollywood star power to a fundraiser hosted by George Clooney.

His campaign hopes to make history again on Thursday when the candidate for reelection heads to Hollywood for what could be the single most lucrative presidential campaign fundraiser yet. Unofficial estimates of the evening’s haul are running at $15 million.

The neatly-timed announcement on gay marriage, political pundits and gay rights activists say, has given the Obama candidacy fresh steam in the entertainment world as he heads toward a face-off with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

“Hollywood has many faces,” says Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political scientist at the University of Southern California. “So you cannot necessarily make a blanket statement.” Nonetheless, she says, there were many in various segments of Hollywood – from the business executives to the middle-class union workers – who felt that Obama had not made good on campaign promises. “This announcement gives fresh energy to Obama’s appeal across many sectors inside Hollywood,” she says.

The payoff has begun immediately, with iconic TV producer Norman Lear announcing that after withholding support for Obama’s reelection, he and his wife will pony up $40,000 each for the night’s festivities.

Openly gay Latino superstar Ricky Martin announced Wednesday that he will host a fundraiser on May 14 in New York, saying in a statement quoted on the Broadway world site, "I believe Barack Obama has shown a deep conviction to help those most in need, even if their voices are not always the ones heard the loudest in Washington.”

He went on to say that Obama “has also been an exceptionally strong advocate for the Latino and LGBT communities, leading us to precedent-setting milestones such as the appointment of the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. … I believe the president has put the United States back on the right path and has earned the opportunity to finish the critical work that he has started."

While it is easy to scoff at celebrities-as-politicos, it’s important not to underestimate their reach, says Rich Ferraro, a spokesman for the gay rights advocacy group, GLAAD. “They are influencers of the larger culture,” he says, “and when popular entertainers support an issue or a candidate, their   exposure matters.”

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