WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he believes same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, taking a stand on a divisive issue that is likely to please his political base and upset conservative voters.
"It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married," Obama said in an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts. Obama's comments came three days after Vice President Joe Biden said in a television interview that he was comfortable with gay marriage, and one day after North Carolina voters amended that state's constitution to ban it.
The comments made Obama the first president to publicly express his support for gay marriage. Pressure had built on the Democrat president to clarify his views after Biden and other Cabinet members spoke out in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to wed - a touchy topic in a year in which Obama's race against Republican Mitt Romney in the Nov.6 election is expected to be close.
ABC said Obama described his views as personal and still believed that U.S. states should be able to decide on the issue. Romney opposes same-sex marriage but supports hospital visitation rights and other domestic partnership benefits for gay and lesbian couples.
A Gallup poll released earlier this week indicated that half of Americans believe same-sex couples should have the same right to wed as heterosexuals while 48 percent do not. Gallup said the results "underscore just how divided the nation is on this issue."
Nearly two-thirds of Democrats support same-sex marriage, along with more than half of independents, while fewer than a quarter of Republicans believe it should be allowed.
Obama, who ended the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that prevented gays from serving openly in the military, said watching members of his staff who are in committed same-sex relationships and thinking about "soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained" had affected his thinking.
He also mentioned his children as an influential factor and said his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, shared his views.
"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," Obama said, according to a transcript.
"It doesn't make sense to them and frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective."
His remarks were celebrated by Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group, which said Obama had "made history" with the comments. Neera Tanden from the Center for American Progress described the expression of support as "another large step toward realizing this country's promise of equality."
Republican gay rights activists applauded the decision but were more muted.
"I am sure, however, the president's newly discovered support for marriage is cold comfort to the gay couples in North Carolina," said Christopher Barron, chief strategist of GOProud.
North Carolina voted on Tuesday to join 28 other states that have voter-approved constitutional bans on same-sex marriages, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Six states and the District of Columbia allow gay and lesbian marriage. In Colorado on Wednesday, a bill that would have granted civil unions to same-sex couples failed to advance to a full vote.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ
@Mj: your comment is the symbol of betrayal because even if you are non-muslim then read the true teachings of your related religion and see that same sex marriage is strictly prohibited even in the other religions,
Donald Young, Larry Bland and Nate Spencer wouldn't be pleased with Obama.
@BlackJack: Yeah sure. Even Einstien would not had been able to understand the logic of Man marrying a Man or Woman marrying a Woman. Sheer ignorance! Or probably you are one of the paid Indians who have the job of writing anything & everything against what the majority Pakistanis believe. Well in that case, the logic is there.
Ok I ain't religious or something, but even then same sex copulation is Disgusting!!!! Sucks big time!!! [puke]!!!
@Ahmer Ali: Not everyone believes in your brand of fables.
@Truth_Prevails: Couldn't figure that out the incredible leap of logic - if approving gay marriage makes everyone gay, that means everyone in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, and Sweden must be gay? Hmm - clearly it is Einstein stuff for you after all.
Ok let's imangine 'Gay Marriages' are ok. They are not but for the purpose of argument lets say they are. So by applying a hypothesis that everyone in the world becomes gay, the whole world will come to an end within a few decades. Its no Einstien stuff! Same couples can't produce. So the so-called Pakistani liberals or Human Right activists have to understand that ethics, morality, respect, nature come before publicity and greed for money.
I welcome and respect his decision. Although I am STRAIGHT.
@Imran Con: The LGBT community is not asking for a Church wedding - in fact half of the people who voted against recognizing same-sex unions may also not have had a wedding in a house of God. They just want legal recognition of their status as a married couple which is not too much to ask - that little piece of paper is unlikely to harm anyone else.
@ Imran Con I think you must have read the holy scriptures first, Quran describes the destruction of "Qaume Loot" because of this sin
Religious fanatics are against liberal notions. To be more precise, people of the Books, are.
Its a wonderful thing that despite the overbearing effects of Christianity, the West has managed to come out of its grip and establish a liberal, free, secular and non-violent systems, which the Islamic World is not able to do, which I think has to do with the dogmatic notions of Islam. This is also true to a lesser degree with respect to Christianity.
Compare this with societies without the burden of the books like India.
"Most would have expected it to be 'big news', but the opposite happened when a runaway lesbian couple, Beena and Savita, (from Khekada village in Baghpat) was given recognition of their marriage by a Gurgaon court, along with police protection. "
I don't care one way or another but... Objectively, if it is considered forbidden in any given religion's religious texts, it doesn't make much sense to expect them to condone marrying same sex couples using their traditional ceremonies. It's technically forcing them to violate their beliefs. It's even a little bit unreasonable. However, if a country, state, whatever is going to have programs and bonuses (even negative things for that matter) for married couples, they should be allowed to get married by state institutions just the same as a traditional couple would without going through the church.
The pakistani government should also take some lessons in doing the right thing despite blackmailing from the religious extremists.Our government has always surrendered before the violent demands of the Islamic fanatics who've dictated terms to all our governments. Savage homophobia is widespread in our society promoted by rabid,hatefilled mullahs who have nothing better to do than spread hate and intolerance towards the LGBT community. It's high time our govt. stopped bowing down before the religious fanatics.
The gay and lesbian community has faced bigotry and hate from religious fanatics all over the world.In pakistan it's the Muslim fanatics who oppress the LGBT community and subject them to severe persecution,in USA it's the conservative christians and jews who oppose gay marriage while clinging to their religious homophobia.
It is surprising to see a man who faces re-election in only a few months time,come on tv and openly say what he believes is right,that takes a special kind of courage.
This president has not bowed before the blackmailing of the religious pressure groups in his country,he has not made any deals with the religious arm-twisters,he has stated his policy loud and clear for his voters to know where he stands on the issue of gay marriage.
This is what great leadership is all about.Obama has dared to take a public stand on an issue in a country that is infested with christian fanatics.The religious rightwing in america is very strong and extremely homophobic,inspite of his re-election coming up,obama has the moral courage to stand up for what's right and not surrender before the pressure tactics of the fundamentalist christians in america.This is what a true leader is,this is what unselfish behaviour is.