Becomes first sitting US president to support marriage equality
President Barack Obama made history Wednesday (9 May) by becoming the first sitting US President to support same-sex marriage.
‘I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly,’ Obama said in an interview with ABC News. ‘… It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples be able to get married.’
Obama’s announcement came amid mounting pressure on him to take a stand on an issue that he had previously said he was still ‘evolving on.’
Said Obama: ‘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.’
Obama also explained why he had been hesitant to give a full endorsement: ‘I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient. And I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people the word ‘marriage’ was something that invokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth.’
Obama’s remarks come three days after Vice President Joe Biden came out in favor of gay marriage during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press and one day after North Carolina voters approved a ban on gay marriage and civil unions.
Chad Griffin, board president of the American Foundation of Equal Rights, said Obama’s words ‘will be celebrated by generations to come.’
‘For the millions of young gay and lesbian Americans across this nation, their President’s words provide genuine hope that they will be the first generation to grow up with the freedom to fully pursue the American dream,’ said Griffin, the incoming president of the Human Rights Campaign. ‘Marriage—the promise of love, companionship, and family—is basic to the pursuit of that dream. Our Constitution’s promise, the promise of liberty, is one that every generation must realize. As President Obama recognized today, the fight to secure marriage equality is the defining element of our generation’s search for greater freedom.’