President Barack Obama announced this month that he now supports the right of same-sex couples to marry. In doing so, Obama has become the first U.S. president to express support for gay and lesbian couples to marry. He told ABC News his views on gay marriage have “evolved” since the 2008 campaign when he said he opposed same-sex marriage, but could support civil unions.
Obama’s shift on gay marriage came a day after voters in North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment banning not only same-sex marriages, but civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.
“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, 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,” he said.
Obama’s comments on gay marriage have reignited yet another national debate on same-sex unions. The presumptive Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney, told students graduating from the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., on May 12 that he believes marriage should be “between one man and one woman.”
Meanwhile, another Republican — Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — was rebuked by a party official and an evangelical leader for saying he wasn’t sure President Obama’s views on marriage “could get any gayer.” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, appearing on CBS News “Face the Nation” on May 13, said he strongly disagreed with Paul’s choice of words. “I don’t think this is something we should joke about,” Perkins said. “We are talking about individuals who feel very strongly one way or the other, and I think we should be civil, respectful, allowing all sides to have the debate. ... I think this is not something to laugh about. It’s not something to poke fun at other people about. This is a very serious issue.” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus also criticized Paul for his comments. “People in this country, no matter straight or gay, deserve dignity and respect,” Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “However, that doesn’t mean it carries on to marriage.”
A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll released last week found 51 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s new position on gay marriage. Six out of 10 respondents to that same poll also said the president’s support for same-sex marriage will have no impact on how they plan to vote in November.
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