President Obama made history again today (May 9), becoming the first sitting U.S. president to endorse the right of gay couples to get married and have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.
In a sense, Obama was following not leading on the issue, since public opinion is mostly in favor of recognizing gay marriage. The issue has been a top priority for gay rights groups for years.
The move was monumental nonetheless. Strong pockets of opposition to gay marriage exist, and 20 states specifically have laws on their books prohibiting gay unions. North Carolina was the latest state to pass such a law this week.
“I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally,” Obama told ABC’s Robin Roberts. The interview will air in full on ABC’s “Good Morning America” tomorrow (May 10).
Obama said he was drawing on his own experience “over the course of several years,” talking to friends and family members and thinking about members of his own staff who are in committed monogamous relationships raising children. He said he also thought about “soldiers, or airmen, or marines, or sailors” in the same situation.
“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,” he said.
Vice President Joseph Biden soften the ground a bit over the weekend when he said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that he was comfortable with same-sex marriage. Education Secretary Arne Duncan echoed those thoughts as well.
The North Carolina legislature on Tuesday (May 8) passed an amendment that defined marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman.
“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,” he added.
Politically, President Obama probably has the support of most gay voters, given the poor alternative presented by the likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Those who are opposed to gay marriage probably aren’t voting for Obama in the general election.