President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage for the first time on Wednesday, saying that he thought it was important for him to “go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
“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 told Roberts.
ABC is expected to make the most of its big get by spacing out clips from it over a handful of its news programs, but the network broke into its daytime programming to air the excerpt in question shortly after the interview wrapped up Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, the White House reportedly scrambled to set-up the interview to give Obama the chance to discuss his views on gay marriage, which had previously been described as “evolving” by the president and his team. The afternoon press briefing at the White House was also canceled, an indication that the president was likely to make news during his ABC sit-down.
Obama’s election-year endorsement of gay matrimony comes in the middle of a week that has seen the issue at the center of the national conversation, thanks in large part to Vice President Joe Biden’s Sunday suggesting that he was “absolutely comfortable” with allowing gays and lesbians to wed.
Those comments, along with similar ones from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, appeared to energize many on the left and increase liberal pressure on President Obama to speak out in favor of same-sex marriage, something he had previously opted against while at the same time lending his support to the notion of civil unions.
In The Audacity of Hope, published in 2006, Obama wrote that it was his “obligation not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society, but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided.” (Politico has a solid look back at Obama’s somewhat varying stances on the issue over the years here.)
It’s unclear exactly what impact Obama’s new gay-marriage position will have on November’s election. While his decision to leave the sidelines on the issue will likely energize many on the left, it’s also sure to rally the conservative base.
A new poll released this week found that 50 percent of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to wed, while 48 percent opposite it. The issue is particularly polarizing along party lines with 65 percent of Democrats supporting legalizing same-sex marriage, compared with only 22 percent of Republicans who do so. Perhaps a particularly important takeaway, however, was that 57 percent of independents said gay marriage should be legal. You can read more from the poll results here.