President Barack Obama today became the first sitting president to announce support for same-sex marriage, making his position on the subject clear.
In a sit-down interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, Obama completed what has been a long and often dubious “evolution” on the controversial topic.
“I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly,” Obama told Roberts in an interview that will air Thursday.
Obama’s announcement, on the heels of North Carolina’s Amendment 1 ban on gay marriage in that state, was made after much soul-searching.
“Over the course of several years, I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, and I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together,” he said.
“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.”
It’s also a major victory for the gay rights community, which has been pushing him to declare his support for marriage equality for years.
Just last Sunday, Vice President Joseph Biden told NBC’s Meet The Press that he was personally comfortable with same-sex marriage.
With the issue back in the news, the pressure on Obama intensified.
The White House originally insisted over the weekend that Biden clarified his statement as being in reference to civil rights for gay couples.
But the explanation was largely dismissed as a political dodge, a way for Obama to support for marriage equality without having to declare it himself.
The president finally chose to speak out Wednesday in the wake of the North Carolina ban, with the White House hastily scheduling an interview.
“It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” the president said. “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, believe in equality.”
“They are much more comfortable with it. You know, 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 president’s support of same-sex marriage will have little political impact, at least from a practical standpoint, as most states have tackled the issue legislatively and/or judicially, outside the realm of the federal government.
Symbolically, the impact is much more profound.
As the first president to support marriage equality, he sets the bar for its social and political acceptance and retains the ability to shape public opinion further.
What do you think of President Obama’s support for gay marriage?