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President Obama to Gay Marriage Supporters: I'm With You — Finally

President Obama

President Obama speaks to Robin Roberts about the "evolution" of his position on gay marriage

If you were disheartened last night after North Carolina passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage (but snickered that it’s still legal there for cousins to marry), take heart: There is good news today on the topic.

After years of opposing the union of same-sex partners, President Obama declared in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts that he now, in facts, supports gay marriage, according to Yahoo News.

The president said the “evolution” of his stance was due to thoughtful conversations with service men and women, family, friends and staff members.

“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point 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,” Obama told Roberts. The interview will air on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday, with excerpts shown tonight on “World News with Diane Sawyer.”

Obama had been increasingly under pressure by the Democratic party, as well as from Vice President Joe Biden, to change course on his views of marriage. His new point of view is personal, he stresses in the interview, and he will continue to support individual states “deciding the issue on their own.” However, he thinks more Americans will be comfortable with expanding the definition of marriage on their own.

Prior to today’s news, the president had leaned towards supporting gay marriage in that he was a vocal advocate for civil unions between gay and lesbian couples so they could be afforded marriage-like benefits and privileges.

Earlier this week Biden announced he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage. Other prominent Democrats have also been outspoken in their support of same-sex unions, and Yahoo News said the “disconnect became difficult for the White House to explain away.”

When Obama ran for state office in Illinois in 1996, he stated on a questionnaire that he was in support of gay marriage, but then allowed aides to say it did not actually “reflect” his position. He later said his Christian tradition meant he didn’t believe that marriage could be between anyone other than a man and woman. As recently as last year he was quoted as saying it was a topic with which he struggled.

It’s lost on no one, of course, that Obama has changed course on a hot button issue during an election year. His Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, not only staunchly opposes gay marriage, but also supports rolling back rights for same-sex couples who currently enjoy the same privileges affording to heterosexual married couples in some states.

While there are plenty who would have liked to see Obama pledge his support sooner, and ever more who would now like his position to become stronger than just a “personal” belief, it’s an enormous step in the right direction for supporters of marriage equality, and a giant leap for equal rights for all citizens, no matter their sexual orientation.

 

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