President Barack Obama came out in favor of gay marriage on Wednesday afternoon after two days of public waffling by the White House.
“I have always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally,” Obama told ABC’s “Good Morning America,” during a hurriedly arranged interview aimed at defusing the tricky position the president has found himself in since Sunday, when Vice President Joe Biden told NBC’s “Meet the Press” he favored same-sex marriages.
Obama told interviewer Robin Roberts his daughters have friends whose parents are gay.
“Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated different,” Obama said. “It doesn’t make sense to them and, frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”
Obama pointed out to Roberts that his administration has already rolled back “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and is no longer defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which he said “tried to federalize what is historically state law.”
“I have stood on the side of broader equality for the community,” Obama said in the interview, which will be broadcast in full on Thursday. ABC released a portion of the broadcast on Wednesday.
“I hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient,“ said the president. “That was something that would give people hospital visitation rights and other elements we take for granted. 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.
“But I have to tell you 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 incredibly committed and in monogamous relationships, same sex relationships, who are raising kids together,” Obama 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 have just concluded that for me, personally, it is important to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” he said.
Obama said his wife Michelle was involved in his decision and joins him in supporting gay marriage.
“In the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people,” he said.
Acknowledging that his support for same-sex marriage may rankle religious conservatives, Obama said he thinks about his faith in part through the prism of the Golden Rule — treating others the way you would want to be treated.
“That’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I’ll be as president,” Obama said.
The decision to talk came after Obama was put on the spot when Biden expressed his support for same-sex unions on Sunday. That was followed by a similar statement from Education Secretary Arne Duncan the following day.
Also on Monday, reporters at a press briefing openly laughed at White House spokesman Jay Carney as he repeatedly tried to explain Obama’s views on the subject. At one point Carney claimed that Obama’s views hadn’t changed even though they were evolving.
Obama’s hesitation to give full support to gay marriage has been seen as a political ploy as he knows it is still unpopular with many voters.
North Carolina voted on Tuesday to amend its state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, a decision that Obama called “disappointing.”
Obama’s position was further complicated by the disclosure that back in 1996 he had written in a survey by a Chicago gay newspaper, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriage, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
A Gallup poll this week showed 50 percent of Americans now support gay marriage, but the ideological divide was clear with 65 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents in favor.
However only 22 percent of Republicans say they support same-sex marriages.
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