WASHINGTON -- In a nod to a dramatic shift in public opinion, Barack Obama on Wednesday became the first sitting president to announce his support for same-sex marriage.
In a sit-down interview with ABC's Robin Roberts, Obama completed what has been a markedly long and oft-mocked evolution on the matter.
"I've always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly," Obama told Roberts, in an interview that will air in full on ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday.
"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," he said.
The White House insisted that there was no daylight between the vice president's position and the president's, noting that Biden clarified his statement as being in reference to civil rights for gay couples. But the explanation was largely dismissed by both supporters and critics as a convenient way for the president to signal support for marriage equality without having to declare it himself.
“It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” the president said. “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, believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they 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. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”
The president's support of same-sex marriage will have little political impact, from a practical standpoint, as much of the activity on the issue is currently occurring in the states and the courts. Already the Obama administration's Department of Justice has stopped defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. Legislation to overturn DOMA outright would likely be blocked by congressional Republicans.