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.
Update 2 p.m. Here's another clip from the interview, posted by Talking Points Memo.
HOST ROBIN ROBERTS: Did you discuss this with Mrs. Obama, the same-sex marriage issue?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I did. This is something we've talked about over the years. And she feels the same way that i do. And that is that in the end, the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people. We're both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others, but when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. And I think that's what we try to impart to our kids. And that's what motivates me as president, and I figure the more consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I'll be as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I'll be as president.
Update: Response from The American Foundation For Local Rights, which is sponsoring the legal challenge to Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban...
Los Angeles, CA – Today, in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News, President Barack Obama announced his support for marriage equality.
“Today is a proud day for all Americans,” said AFER lead co-counsel Theodore B. Olson. “The bedrock American principles of freedom and human dignity are central to the political and legal convictions of Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and conservatives alike. President Obama’s words remind us that marriage and equality are universal values that unite us all. They remind us that we are all—as a People and a Nation—striving to form a more perfect Union.”
“President Obama’s words today will be celebrated by generations to come,” said AFER Board President Chad Griffin. “For the millions of young gay and lesbian Americans across this nation, their President’s words provide genuine hope that they will be the first generation to grow up with the freedom to fully pursue the American dream. Marriage—the promise of love, companionship, and family—is basic to the pursuit of that dream. Our Constitution’s promise, the promise of liberty, is one that every generation must realize. As President Obama recognized today, the fight to secure marriage equality is the defining element of our generation’s search for greater freedom.”
Yesterday, Gallup released a poll that showed 50 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be legal, down from 53 percent last year but still a noticeable swing from as recently as 2010, when just 44 percent approved of legalization. Notably, the latest poll shows the coveted group of voters identifying themselves as independent support same-sex marriage 57 percent to 40 percent.
In California, the numbers are even more favorable for proponents. A February Field Poll found 59 percent supportive of allowing same-sex couples to marry.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, however, wrote yesterday that these numbers are soft. Ironically, the column, posted at 11:35 p.m., attempts to explain why Obama hasn't come out in favor of same-sex marriage yet:
The first reason is that while the increase in public support for same-sex marriage over the last two decades has been astonishingly swift, it has not been irreversible. Instead, sudden bursts of legal momentum – mostly driven by judicial rulings, from Massachusetts to Iowa – have often prompted temporary backlashes.
In Gallup’s polling, support for same-sex marriage rose from 35 percent to 42 percent between 1999 and 2004, but then dropped back to 37 percent; it rose to 46 percent just before Obama’s 2008 victory, but then dropped back to 40 percent a year later. Today’s 50 percent support likewise represents a slight drop-off from the high of 53 percent in the survey Gallup conducted last year.
This pattern suggests that Americans grow more resistant to same-sex marriage the more they feel that it’s being imposed upon them by an unelected judicial elite, and grow more supportive the more it seems to be gaining ground organically. A president is not an unelected judge, but a public flip-flop on the issue by the nation’s chief executive might feel like yet another elite attempt to pre-empt a debate that appears to be moving toward a resolution, but hasn’t quite been settled yet.
The second reason for the White House’s caution is that opinion polling has consistently understated opposition to same-sex marriage since the issue rose to national prominence. Voters who say they support it when Gallup and other pollsters come calling can behave very differently in the privacy of the voting booth. Full article
In March, KQED Public Radio's Forum program discussed the political pros and cons of Obama declaring his support for same-sex marriage. Here's one exchange between guests Evan Wolfson, founder and president of the same-sex marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry, and Ed Espinoza, a Democratic political consultant:
EVAN WOLFSON, FREEDOM TO MARRY: A vast majority of Democrats support the freedom to marry, but so do a majority of Independents, so do a majority of Catholics, so do a younger voters across the spectrum, including even Republicans and conservatives. So the President, by getting in line with the majority of Americans and the vast majority of Democrats and Independents, will be really doing something that his supporters, the people who are reachable, the people who want to be with him, want to see.
HOST MICHAEL KRASNY: Do you agree Ed Espinoza that the majority are in support of same sex marriage and that the president, really, if he goes for this on the campaign platform will be speaking to the majority of Americans?
DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL CONSULTANT ED ESPINOZA: I agree with the part that support for marriage equality is growing. I haven’t seen numbers recently to know if it’s a majority, though I will take Evan at his word… I can certainly believe that it is. As far as whether or not it’s good politics… there’s one hurdle here… and it’s that we don’t have national elections in this country. We have state-by-state elections. So long as we’re using this old dinosaur of the Electoral College and we don’t have a popular vote, we have got to weigh the outcome, the potential outcomes, of elections a little bit differently because some states have greater impact than others. And in some of these particular swing states, we don’t have a majority support just yet…”
Update 12:45 p.m. The Log Cabin Republicans are not impressed. Posted on Talking Points Memo:
That the president has chosen today, when LGBT Americans are mourning the passage of Amendment One, to finally speak up for marriage equality is offensive and callous,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director. “Log Cabin Republicans appreciate that President Obama has finally come in line with leaders like Vice President Dick Cheney on this issue, but LGBT Americans are right to be angry that this calculated announcement comes too late to be of any use to the people of North Carolina, or any of the other states that have addressed this issue on his watch. This administration has manipulated LGBT families for political gain as much as anybody, and after his campaign’s ridiculous contortions to deny support for marriage equality this week he does not deserve praise for an announcement that comes a day late and a dollar short.