Special to the tribune
Ashish Kumar Sen in Washington DC
Barack Obama on Wednesday said he supports gay marriage, reversing his long-standing opposition and becoming the first sitting US President to support the same-sex alliance.
In an interview with ABC News, Obama said he had arrived at his decision through a process of “evolution” helped along by conversations with his staff, openly gay and lesbian service members, friends, neighbours, his wife and daughters.
“I have to tell you that over the course of several years, as I have talked to friends and family and neighbours, 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... because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point, 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,” Obama told ABC News’ Robin Roberts in an interview. Obama said his decision was based on the “Golden Rule” — “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
A survey by polling firm Gallup last month found that 50 per cent of the respondents said gay marriage should be legal while 48 per cent were opposed to it. Democrats supported gay marriage by around 2-1 while Republicans opposed it by a bigger margin. Among independents, 57 per cent voiced support and 40 per cent, opposition.
Obama said he was confident that more and more Americans will grow comfortable with gays and lesbians getting married.
Earlier this week, Vice President Joe Biden said he was “absolutely comfortable” with allowing gays and lesbians to marry.
Mitt Romney, Obama’s likely Republican opponent in the November election, said on Monday that he remains opposed to gay marriage. “My view is that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” Romney said.
“That’s the position I’ve had for some time, and I don’t intend to make any adjustments at this point... Or ever, by the way,” he said.
Previously, Obama had been opposed to gay marriage, but supported civil unions for same-sex couples that provide the rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples.
In 2004, while running for a seat in the US Senate from Illinois, he said his religion had shaped his opinion. “I’m a Christian. I do believe that tradition and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman,” he said at the time.
In the interview, Obama described the growing acceptance of gay marriage as “generational”.
“You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes, I talk to college Republicans who think I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear when it comes to same-sex equality or, you know, sexual orientation, that they believe in equality,” he said. “They are much more comfortable with it.”
At home, dinner table conversations with his family also shaped Obama’s opinion.
The President said his daughters, Malia and Sasha, 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,” he said. “It doesn't make sense to them and, frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective,” he added.