More than three years into a presidency in which he’s said his view on gay unions is “evolving” but that he didn’t support gay marriage, PresidentBarack Obama today told ABC News that he does now support same-sex nuptials.
After talking with staff members, openly gay and lesbian service members, as well as with his wife and daughters, Obama said, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
However, Obama stopped short of calling for gay marriage to be recognized on a national level, saying it should be up to the individual states.
The announcement comes just days after Vice President Joe Biden and then Education Secretary Arne Duncan publicly announced that they endorsed gay marriage. There has also been growing pressure from the gay and lesbian community as well as from many Democrats.
Additionally, a Pew Research Center poll last month showed that for the first time, more Americans supported gay marriage (47 percent) than opposed it (43 percent). Support for gay marriage has been steadily growing in this and other opinion polls, with younger generations more likely to embrace it.
“You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same sex equality or, you know, sexual orientation that they believe in equality,” Obama told ABC News’ Robin Roberts in an interview set to air on TV tonight. A portion of that interview is now online.
“Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”
The pro-gay marriage Family Equality Council immediately applauded the decision.
“This is a historic day for families everywhere,” says Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler. “I am thrilled that the President has again demonstrated his firm commitment to the millions of tax paying Americans who want to show their love and commitment to each other through marriage….
“President Obama has fulfilled his promise of evolving his views on marriage and history will honor his leadership on extending fairness and freedom to all Americans.”
The New York Times writes that Obama’s decision poses potential political risk in the president’s reelection bid and “appears to have been driven by the unexpected declarations of support for gay marriage” by Biden and Duncan.
“After days of repeated questions by journalists about the president’s position on the issue, White House officials reached out to ABC News late Tuesday night to arrange the Wednesday afternoon interview at the White House,” the Times writes.
In the ABC News interview, Obama discusses his previous decision not to endorse gay marriage.
“I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient,” Obama said. “I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that invokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs.”
The Associated Press writes that there was disagreement on Obama’s staff over the consequences of the announcement.
“Some top aides argued that gay marriage is toxic at the ballot box in battleground states like North Carolina and Virginia because, as Tuesday’s vote proved, the issue remains a reliable way to fire up rank-and-file Republicans,” the AP says. “It also could open Obama up to Republican criticism that he was taking his eye off the economy, voters’ No. 1 issue.
“Other Democratic supporters claim Obama could energize huge swaths of the party, including young people, by voicing his support for gay marriage before November. He also could appeal to independent voters, many of whom back gay marriage, and he could create an area of clear contrast between himself and his Republican rival as he argues that he’s delivered on the change he promised four years ago.”
Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney remains opposed to gay marriage.
On Wednesday, he told KDVR-TV in Denver that “I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name. My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not.”
Six states — all in the Northeast except Iowa — and the District of Columbia allow same sex marriages, according to AP. In addition, two other states have laws that are not yet in effect and may be subject to referendums.
This article will be updated with additional reaction.