President Obama on Wednesday went on the record with a statement that he now supports same-sex marriage, a reversal of his longstanding opposition. Obama’s announcement followed months of pressure from his Democratic base, his staff, openly gay and lesbian service members, Vice President Joe Biden, and his wife and two daughters.
In an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, which was excerpted on “World News with Diane Sawyer” and will appear on “Good Morning America” Thursday, the president said, “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 president went out of his way to emphasize that this is only his personal position, which he had reached through a process of “evolution,” and that he still believes each state should decide the issue on its own.
He did not say what would be the role of the federal government in cases where one state refused to recognize the same-sex marriage status sanctioned by another.
Instead, the president said he was confident that more Americans would grow comfortable with gays and lesbians getting married, citing his own daughters’ comfort with the concept.
“It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” the president mused. “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. 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 statement followed Vice President Biden’s own endorsement of gay marriage on Sunday, on “Meet the Press,” saying he is “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriages.
Obama aides say the president and his vice president are in complete agreement on legal rights for gay couples, but the announcement represents a turnabout for the president, who has opposed gay marriage since 1996, when, as a candidate for the Illinois state Senate , he indicated support for gay marriage in a questionnaire, but his aides later denied it was his official position.
In 2004, running for the US Senate, Obama stated: “I’m a Christian. I do believe that tradition and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.”
Presidential candidate Obama maintained that position throughout his 2008 campaign, and through his term as president, until Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, and the sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which was intended to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), praised President Obama for his change of mind. Nadler’s statement acknowledged the magnitude of the event:
“For the first time in this nation’s history, a sitting president has shown the courage and leadership to stand up for all American families by pledging to support the fundamental right of every person to marry the person they love, and to have that marriage fully respected.”
Nadler added that “the course toward marriage equality and justice is the correct and inevitable path.”
Despite the firm opposition of the vast majority of Orthodox authorities to gay marriages, there have been cracks in that wall.
In November, 2011, in Washington DC’s “Historic 6th and I Synagogue,” openly-gay, Orthodox-ordained Rabbi Steve Greenberg officiated at a same-sex wedding ceremony.
The radical left-wing website +972 described the event with more than a little poetic flair:
“Greenberg stood under the chupah, a traditional Jewish wedding canopy, as newlyweds Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan tied the knot before some two-hundred guests. Recognizing the unique – and controversial – moment, Greenberg’s voice notably cracked when near the end he stated, ‘By the power invested in me by the District of Columbia, I now pronounce you married.'”