President Barack Obama voiced support for gay marriage in an interview with ABC News today, the third time he has changed his stance on the issue in his political career.
Obama's announcement is a political calculation for his reelection campaign, an attempt to draw a sharp line between himself and Republican Mitt Romney, who opposes gay marriage. The president appears to be banking on the issue, which is heavily supported by younger Americans, to mobilize the youth vote, which has become disaffected during his term in office.
Obama had long been suspected of holding this view, but was thought to be afraid to make it public because of the political backlash.
The revelation comes the day after voters in the key battleground state of North Carolina approved a strict new ban on same-sex marriage. The measure, which prohibits any civil or domestic benefits for gay couples, passed by a landslide with 61 percent of the vote.
Scroll down for video of the interview
Change of heart: President Barack Obama said he once thought civil unions were sufficient rights for gay couples, but he no longer believes that
Historic: President Barack Obama is the first sitting US President to publicly support gay marriage. President George W Bush opposed it and President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage act into law
'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,' the president said.
Obama claims the change is a personal one only, and that he he still believes the issue of gay marriage should be left up to the states.
Currently, six states allow gay couples to wed and 30 states have constitutional amendments explicitly banning it.
Obama said his daughters and their friends were a major reason he changed his mind about gay marriage.
A nation divided: Six states allow same-sex marriage. Thirty states have constitutional amendments banning it. The issue is working its way through the courts in California. In Washington, it will take effect this summer unless put to a referendum
OBAMA'S FLIP-FLOP PAST ON GAY MARRIAGE
'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,' he said.
'It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.'
Obama had been under intense pressure to clarify his view toward gay marriage after Vice President Joe Biden publicly supported it on Sunday.
The White House sought out the interview with Robins Roberts, the 'Good Morning America' host, to explain himself. Parts of the interview will air tonight on 'World News Tonight' and also Thursday morning on 'Good Morning America.'
Roberts, herself, has never married.
Obama seems to be making an election-year political gamble by directly challenging Mitt Romney, his Republican opponent in November.
Before the president's remarks today, Romney re-affirmed his opposition to gay marriage.
Family affair: Obama said talking to his daughters, Sasha and Malia, about their friends who have gay parents made him believe gays should be allowed to get married
THE PARTISAN REACTION TO THE PRESIDENT'S SUPPORT FOR GAY MARRIAGE
'When these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender and I don't favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name,' he told KDVR-TV in Denver.
'My view is that domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights and the like are appropriate but the others are not.'
It could be that Obama is hoping to use the issue to energize young voters, who support gay marriage by way margins.
The president, himself, acknowledged the issue is a generational one.
'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 said in the interview.
Last week, Romney's spokesman for foreign policy, Richard Grenel, quit the campaign after he came under fire from some conservatives for being openly gay.
Recent polls show 50 percent of Americans support gay marriage, but also reveal that the 45 percent who oppose it have strong convictions.
This could explain plain why North Carolina's Amendment 1, which changes the state constitution to prohibit gay marriage and partnership benefits to gay couples, won by such a wide margin among voters.
Biden's remarks on Sunday set the stage for Obama's announcement.
'I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual – men and women marrying – are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that,' Biden said on Meet the Press.
The president signaled that he was open to changing his opinion on gay marriage in 2010 when he said his feelings on the issues were 'evolving.'
'I struggle with this,' he famously said.
Since 2004, Obama has opposed gay marriage, saying his beliefs were based on his Christian faith.
As a presidential candidate he supported civil unions.
However, this isn't the first time Obama has changed in mind on the issue.
In 1996, as an Illinois State Senate candidate, he told a gay newspaper in Chicago that he was in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage and 'would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2142016/Same-sex-couples-able-married-Obama-changes-mind-gay-unions.html#ixzz1uPcFJyQV