Barack Obama comes out in support of gay marriage

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It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” Barack Obama said in an ABC News interview with Robin Roberts that is set to air on Thursday’s Good Morning America. Speculation about when (or whether) Obama would come out in support of the still controversial issue became more and more heating in recent months, in the build-up to yesterday’s Amendment One vote in North Carolina, which effectively banned gay marriage. When his VP Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan both stated their support for gay marriage publicly this week, come pundits suspected the Obama camp of testing the waters for an eventual presidential announcement such as this.

I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient, that that was something that would give people hospital visitation rights and other elements that we take for granted,” Obama said in the interview except released today. “And, I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word ‘marriage’ was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs, and so forth,” he added.

Obama’s “evolution” on same-sex marriage would now appear to be complete. His 2010 statement that his “feelings” about gay marriage were “constantly evolving” failed to impress many LGBT Democrats and gay marriage advocates. Commentators posited that Obama was hesitant to support gay marriage for fear of alienating parts of his Christian voter base, especially since failing to support gay marriage was unlikely to lose him the LGBT vote. The interview now makes his support loud and clear.

The Interview

“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,” he stated.
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In the interview, Barack Obama takes a personal and family approach to explaining his new position, pointing to his wife Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha’s influence on his decision to come out explicitly in support of an issue that enjoys support from only 50% of Americans according to recent polls. 

It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” he also told ABC News. “You know, [his daughters] 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.”

While Obama has come out in support for LGBT rights in the past, particularly in repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and refusing to support the Defence of Marriage Act, this is his first resounding endorsement of gay marriage. However, his opinion is not like to have any immediate legislative effects, since marriage laws are determined largely at the state level. The ripple effects in the build-up to the Democratic National Convention this summer, and US presidential elections this fall, are likely to be huge, as evangelical and Republican groups harden their invective against same-sex marriage, which is currently banned in 30 out of 51 US states.

Photo: The White House US Government Works, Flickr