by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
President Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to announce support for same-sex marriage, in an interview May 9 with ABC News' Robin Roberts, reversing his long-held position that civil unions are good enough.
The president said his support for marriage equality had evolved through conversations with his staff members, with openly Gay and Lesbian service members, and with his wife and daughters.
'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,' Obama told Roberts in the interview, which was broadcast May 10 on ABC's Good Morning America.
The president did, however, stress that this is a personal position, and said he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own. But his decision to publicly support marriage equality could have a lasting impression on the slow, state-by-state crawl toward equality.
In Washington State, where a battle over same-sex marriage is currently raging, Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, told Seattle Gay News, 'This is an important and historic moment for our country and our state. To have the president lend his strong support for marriage equality, and speak about his own journey there, resonates with millions of Americans.'
'President Obama's path rings true for many in our state who have realized that marriage between loving, committed Gay and Lesbian couples is a simple matter of fairness and common sense,' Silk said. 'We hope the president's remarks today will encourage more people to thoughtfully consider their own position and join their family, friends, and neighbors in supporting Washington's marriage equality law, and approving Referendum 74 if it qualifies for the ballot next November.'
Citing his daughters' comfort with the concept, Obama said, 'It's interesting, some of this is also generational. 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, adding, '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.'
When asked if first lady Michelle Obama was involved in this decision, Obama said she was, and then talked specifically about his own faith. '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. And that is that, in the end, the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people & 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. And 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.'
The May 9 announcement was somewhat of a surprise because although Obama has said his views on marriage equality were evolving, he continually stopped short of outright backing it.
. Mitt Romney, Obama's likely Republican opponent, opposes same-sex marriage.
'My view is that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,' Romney said Monday, while on the campaign trail. 'That's the position I've had for some time, and I don't intend to make any adjustments at this point. & Or ever, by the way.'
Romney wasn't the only one who disagreed with Obama's show of support. After Obama's historic endorsement of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, Gay Republican groups launched vicious attacks on the president's embrace of equality, calling it 'cold comfort' and comparing the President to former Vice President Dick Cheney. One group described the announcement as 'offensive and callous,' while another said it was 'hardly a profile in courage.'
National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jerame Davis replied, 'These groups are truly shameless in their desperate attempt to provide cover for the atrociously regressive positions held by the GOP and Mitt Romney. Just today, Mitt Romney came out singing the party line expressing his complete opposition to marriage equality and civil unions. And just to drive home the point, the RNC provided Chairman Reince Priebus as a backup singer warbling the same broken tune.'
'But to invoke the name of Dick Cheney in their attacks is just surreal,' he continued. 'Cheney was, by most accounts, the most powerful vice president in history. He had the power to order torture, wire-tapping, and got us into two wars - yet he did absolutely nothing to advance LGBT equality with that power in the entire eight years he was in office. When George Bush and Ken Mehlman - himself a closeted Gay man at the time - concocted their scheme to advance a federal marriage amendment for political gain, Cheney sat idly by and did nothing to stop it.'
'President Obama has done real work to advance LGBT equality and today's statement only adds to that sterling resume,' said Davis.
President Obama has a good track record of actions that have made a real difference in the lives of LGBT people and our families. Since 2009, Obama has improved hospital visitation and decision making rights for Gay and Lesbian couples, repealed DADT, expanded access to health care by enacting the Affordable Care Act, signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, ensured Transgender Americans can get their true passport regardless of surgery status, and ended discrimination against LGBT people in federal housing.
And now, Obama can add 'supported marriage equality in 2012' to that list of accolades. Thank you, Mr. President. The staff of Seattle Gay News applauds you for your leadership and support on this issue.
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