Obama buckles on gay marriage

Evolving stance on issue ends up in favor

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A Gallup poll taken May 3-6 showed that 50 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be legally recognized, with the same rights as traditional marriages, while 48 percent said such marriages should not. The same poll found that 65 percent of Democrats support gay marriage, 57 percent of independent voters support it, but only 22 percent of Republicans favor it.

In 2004, when running for the U.S. Senate and being pushed as a Democratic star, Mr. Obama stated that “marriage is between a man and a woman.” In October 2010, he told bloggers that his views were “evolving” but he was still opposed.

In October 2011, he told an interviewer, “I’m still working on it.”

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said Mr. Obama needed to take a stand because “this evolving position was going to be untenable over the course of the campaign.”

“The Democratic Party is not going to nominate, ever again, someone who’s not for marriage equality,” she said. “This was starting to get more out of sync with his own party.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama said he came to the decision “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 … because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage.”

“It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” the president said in the interview. “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, sexual orientation that they believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it.”

He said his daughters, Malia and Sasha, “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,” Mr. Obama said. “It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”

Asked whether first lady Michelle Obama was involved in this decision, Mr. Obama said she was, and he talked about his religion.

“This is something that, you know, we’ve talked about over the years and she, you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do,” the president said.

“In the end, the values that I care most deeply about, and she cares most deeply about, is how we treat other people. And, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others. But, you know, 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, you know, ‘Treat others the way you would want to be treated,’ ” he said.

“I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president, and I figure the most 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,” he said.

Researcher John Sopko contributed to this report.

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