BREAKING: President Obama Announces He Supports Same-Sex Marriage (With Video!)

Just a few days after Vice President Joe Biden’s comments that he personally supports same-sex marriage, President Barack Obama has made an announcement that he also personally supports equal marriage rights, although he also supports leaving the legislative decision up to the states.

Obama has made moves implying support for marriage equality in the past, from calling on the Department of Justice to stop defending DOMA in court to speaking out against North Carolina’s Amendment 1. But this is the first time he’s openly and explicitly confirmed his personal belief in marriage equality. In doing so, he used the language of “evolution” that’s been used in the past to describe his stance on the issue, and also spoke of the way in which his faith informs his view.

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In an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, Obama said:

“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.”

Obama’s announcement comes the day after Amendment 1, a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and potentially invalidating civil unions and domestic partnerships, passed by 61% in North Carolina. Obama had already declared his opposition to the amendment, and it’s possible that the amendment’s success (and perhaps Biden’s words) motivated him to make a statement, or at least make one sooner than he would have otherwise.

Obama’s position on same-sex marriage has been under much debate as the election approaches; Biden’s comments were seen as “off-the-cuff,” and it’s possible that Biden’s move created some pressure for Obama to make an announcement of his own. After Biden’s announcement, a top aide to Obama’s re-election campaign, tweeted that Obama’s stance was the same as Biden’s — specifically that “What VP said – that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights – is precisely POTUS’s position.” It’s also possible, however, that both Biden and Obama’s statements were calculated as moves that might help them win four more years in the White House. The Washington Post has an in-depth breakdown of the pros and cons of supporting marriage equality in 2012 — for instance, it may help him re-connect with the activist youth base that helped him get elected the first time. On the other hand, it may also distance him from voter demographics that he needs to win from the GOP. (True to form, Fox News is currently describing Obama’s announcement as an instance of “flip-flopping.”)

Romney’s camp has wasted no time re-confirming his opposition to gay marriage: “I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name… My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not.” Not long ago, Obama’s stated position was fairly similar; in 2004, he said that “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.” It wasn’t until 2010 that he began to describe his views as “evolving,” and he’s now the first US President (and the only candidate in 2012) who personally supports marriage equality.

Biden and Obama were both careful in their statements not to espouse any specific courses of legislative or judicial action; neither went so far as to claim that marriage equality should be federally recognized, or make any statements whatsoever as to the legal future for gay families. To the extent that this announcement may impact the 2012 election, Obama made no promises about what he would accomplish in office around this issue if re-elected. On the other hand, his willingness to take a controversial position at what some would call the riskiest time to do so does raise the question of what he would be willing to do to support the community when re-election wasn’t at stake — perhaps in terms of issues besides marriage, even. With this announcement, Obama has made history as the President to most actively and explicitly support the queer community in the controversy which most Americans think of when they think of gay people. Depending on how the 2012 election goes (and, in part, how this announcement is received), he may have a chance to be our ally in a way we’ve never seen in a politician before.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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129 Comments

  1. I’m happy for everyone who’s happy about this, but I’m really worried about the general election. Same-sex marriage has never won a legally binding popular vote, anywhere, ever, not once, and this election is even worse: Obama needs the swing states, and this announcement will hurt him there.

    And anyway, if he “personally supports” equality but also favors allowing inequality to flourish unchecked, it’s a pretty toothless kind of support.

  2. I’m on the volunteer staff in my area, and I have to say this makes it all the nicer. He’s been in favor of it for years I’m sure, I remember in 08′ when the NYT posted some of the fact patterns he gave to his Con Law students and they raised the issue (remarkably they dated back to the early 00’s). It must be a relief to him that he can say it openly. And I’m sure that he and his staff took care to do so at a time NOT posing a grave or serious threat to his re-election, which I certainly don’t mind either.

  3. If you were planning to donate to his campaign, today would be a great day to do it….

    It’s like that time in the Hunger Games when Katniss did a thing, and Haymitch sent her a little silver parachute full of stuff that would help her in the arena.

    You know. Like the Political Arena. See?

  4. As Laneia’s Mom, I would like to say WoooHooo!! I really appreciate the President finally admitting this is the right thing to do! I thought it was interesting to learn his decision was partly made by having conversations with his family who know children being raised by gay parents. It it finally time!

  5. I’m still so full of joy and happiness from catching this breaking news on ABC this afternoon that I’m shitting out rainbows. Married ones. I have no doubt that #lovealwayswins. We’ll get there, you guys.

  6. So I was reading comments on Jezebel and someone was saying that it was ironic that he did the interview with a closeted lesbian. Is this a thing that I’ve somehow missed by never watching morning news shows? I’ve never heard any rumors about Robin Roberts being gay, but I’ve never particularly paid attention either.

  7. I have seen so many cynics today, and just want to my romantic idealism a voice.

    This Slate article pretty much sums up my beliefs: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2012/05/obama_gay_marriage_and_the_law_what_his_support_means_.html

    Obama isn’t really saying that he’s changing anything about how he’ll legally act. Also, he supported gay marriage in 1996 in a survey, and then backed down when he became President, so this isn’t the huge personal evolution he makes it out to be.

    BUT. I can’t let go of how significant it is to have families and kids all over the country see their President voice his support for gay marriage. I think personally of my mom, who blindly supports Obama and “thinks he’s kind of handsome” and also doesn’t want to talk about “that gay stuff” or my girlfriend. Or my brother, who is super conservative and until I came out, thought is was “unnatural” and “how could two men hold hands”. Gay marriage is now officially in the mainstream conversation, and isn’t just a fringe belief.

    In order to overcome miseducation and fear, gay marriage and gay rights need to be voiced as a mainstream, “ordinary” belief. As generations switch, we are getting closer and closer to the point where not accepting gay rights and gay people as ridiculous and backwards of a belief as segregation (not just among liberals, but among all Americans).

  8. Obama is not the only candidate running who supports same sex marriage — Gary Johnson, who just received the libertarian nod supports ssm even more fully than Obama… i.e. on a political, rather than personal, level.

    • But the Libertarian Party has screwy politics on a host of other issues (especially economic issues, which are kind of a big deal since we’re in a recession right now) and also, voting for a third-party candidate, I’m sorry to say, really is “throwing away” your vote in a system like the one the United States has where we use “first past the post” voting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7tWHJfhiyo&list=PL87DB3F7E8107A4AE&index=1&feature=plcp

      (this video got linked upthread but I thought it bore repeating)

      • It will always be “throwing away a vote” until people stop seeing it that way and more people vote for the lesser of many equals rather than just two. And you may see the libertarian views as screwy, but I don’t, so I’ll continue to vote for the candidate I most support.

        • Actually, no, the reason it’s “throwing away a vote” has to do with the way our voting system is set up, and it’s not going to change unless we push for a system that is more amenable to a multiparty system (or at least allows one to vote for one without helping the candidate they dislike most, like the alternative vote). Again, watch the video I linked, it addresses your argument here.

        • Also, usually the MORE support a third-party candidate gets, the more it ends up hurting the candidate with whom its supporters most agree. See, for example, the 1912 election, where the Democratic candidate (Wilson) won despite not having a majority because the Republican vote was split between the party’s actual candidate (Taft) and Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party.

  9. Ok. First of all – I know I’m late. Sorry^^
    I’m from Germany and I don’t know if it’s already been said here, but the fact that the president of the USA is outspoken about this is awesome because it’s also influencing other (european) countries. Just the fact that he stated his personal opinion about it results in german (or european/non-US) politicians having to take a stance on the issue. And I think that’s kind of thrilling regaring to the election tomorrow in North Rhine-Westphalia!

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