President Obama, who opposed same-sex marriage until three years ago, hailed the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize gay marriage Friday as “a victory for America.”
“When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free,” Mr. Obama said in the White House Rose Garden. “This ruling will strengthen all our communities. America should be very proud.”
He called the decision “a victory for gay and lesbian couples who have fought so long for their basic civil rights.”
Mr. Obama said during his 2008 presidential campaign that he did not support marriage for same-sex couples. Presidential adviser David Axelrod wrote in a book this year that Mr. Obama took that position only because it was politically expedient at the time.
The president publicly opposed same-sex marriage until 2012.
In 1996, as an Illinois state Senate candidate, Mr. Obama wrote on a questionnaire that he supported same-sex marriage. But in 2011, then-White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said someone else had filled out the questionnaire, and that Mr. Obama “has never favored same-sex marriage.”
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Mr. Obama even tried to take a little credit for what he said is America’s shifting attitudes toward gay marriage.
“In my second inaugural address [in 2013], I said that if we are truly created equal, then truly the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” Mr. Obama said. “It is gratifying to see that principle enshrined into law by this decision.”
The president said the ruling has brought equality to gay Americans “like a thunderbolt,” and that supporters of the ruling should acknowledge there are many people who still don’t accept same-sex marriage.
“Compared to so many other issues, America’s shift [on same-sex marriage] has been so quick,” Mr. Obama said. “I know that Americans of goodwill continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact, recognize different viewpoints, revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.”
But, he added, “today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible. Shifts in hearts and minds is possible.”