This afternoon, in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts, President Barack Obama officially affirmed his support for same-sex marriage. The news comes on the heels of yesterday's vote in North Carolina to pass Amendment 1; a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Obama’s endorsement reverses his longstanding opposition to same-sex marriage, and responds to growing pressure within the Democratic party as well as the recent endorsement of same-sex marriage by Vice President Biden. On Monday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan also came out in support of same-sex marriage. By supporting same-sex marriage, Obama becomes the first sitting president ever to do so.
In the interview with Roberts, Obama refers to his thought process on gay marriage as an “evolution.” He reaffirms that he has “always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally.”
The President stated that he previously hesistated on endorsing gay marriage in part because he thought “civil unions would be sufficient.” He also says he was sensitive to the traditions that the word “marriage” upholds for certain people.
In the excerpt of the interview released by ABC News, Obama states: "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."
The statement is a major victory for the gay rights community, as well as a bold political move by Obama in an election year. By supporting same-sex marriage he has made gay marriage a critical component of the 2012 presidential campaign.