Obama voices his support for gay marriage
President-Elect Barack Obama. | Photo: AP
WASHINGTON- President Barack Obama declared unequivocal support for gay marriage on Wednesday, becoming the first president to endorse the politically explosive idea and injecting a polarizing issue into the 2012 race for the White House.
Obama's announcement, after refusing to take a clear stand for months, cheered gay rights groups who have long urged him to support gay marriage. It also opened up a distinct area of disagreement with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who opposes gay marriage.
Polling suggests the nation is evenly divided on the issue. "I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient," Obama said in an interview with ABC at the White House. He added that, "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."
Now, he said, "it is important for me personally to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married."
The president's decision to address the issue came on the heels of a pair of events that underscored the sensitivity of the issue.
Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview on Sunday that he is completely comfortable with gays marrying, a pronouncement that instantly raised the profile of the issue.
And on Tuesday, voters in North Carolina -- a potential battleground in the fall election -- approved an amendment to the state constitution affirming that marriage may only be a union of a man and a woman.