President Obama became the first U.S. president to endorse same-sex marriage today, saying that it “should be legal.”
“For me personally, it is important to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told ABC’s Good Morning America.
After years of what he had called an “evolving” view of the issues, Obama said family and friends gradually persuaded him that gay and lesbian couples should be treated the same as heterosexual ones.
Facing a re-election bid in which gay rights are a hot button issue, Obama also said his endorsement is a personal view, and that states should set their own marriage laws. The interview took place a day after voters in North Carolina approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage.
His comments also came within a few days of pro-gay marriage statements by Vice President Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, increasing pressure on Obama from gay rights supporters.
However, Mitt Romney, Obama’s likely opponent in the Nov. 6 election, told a Denver television station he doesn’t agree with Obama’s assessment of gay marriage.
“When these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts I indicated my view which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender and I don’t favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name,” the former governor said. “My view is that domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights and the like are appropriate but the others are not.”
Aides said Obama intended to make the announcement before the Democratic convention in early September. But the intense media scrutiny given to the comments by Biden and Duncan pushed up the timetable.
They also said the gay marriage issue would not be a major part of their campaign, and do not know how or if it will affect the outcome of the election.
Gay rights organization praised the president’s announcement. The Human Rights Campaign, which has long lobbied Obama to take such a step, said Obama “made history by boldly stating that gay and lesbian Americans should be fully and equally part of the fabric of American society.”