Obama: U.S. troops are 'fighting on my behalf'

President Obama noted that there is Republican support for same-sex marriage. Gay rights groups applaud.


Today, President Barack Obama cast aside persistent speculation when he came out in favor of same-sex marriage. While the Chief Executive had once said that his views about the subject were “evolving,” on ABC News he said "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 spoke in an interview to be aired on the ‘Good Morning America’ show on May 10. According to a Gallup Poll that was released on May 8, half of all Americans belief that same-sex marriage should be legal. Those opposed amounted to 48 percent.

Obama’s pronouncement has long been sought by advocates of same-sex marriage, even while on May 8 voters in the state of North Carolina voted to preserve the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Obama was “disappointed” by the vote, which he described as discriminatory.  However, the president said that he still supports the 50 states’ right to decide the issue on their own. North Carolina’s poll would serve to implement a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which was already prohibited by state law. Supporters of the measure pushed for the constitutional amendment, arguing that it was needed to ward off future legal challenges.

Pressure had mounted on Obama to make a decision, since Vice President Joe Biden had already announced on May 6 that he favors homosexual unions. Also, his decision may have come as a result of pillow-talk at the White House. Speaking about his exchanges with Michelle Obama, the president said "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."

Said Obama, "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."

Appearing to appeal to younger voters, and even Republicans, Obama said that acceptance of same-sex marriage is a “generational” thing."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," he said. Among the prominent Republicans supporting same-sex marriages are Mary Cheney – daughter of ex-Vice President Dick Cheney – and Megan McCain, the daughter of Senator John McCain.


Obama’s stance is at odds with those of the current frontrunner and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Romney – a devout Mormon - has said that he does not support same-sex marriage.  On a campaign swing through Colorado, Romney said, "And I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name."  Speaking in Fort Lupton, Romney said "My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not."

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said of the president’s change of heart, “In 1996, when Barack Obama was up for a state senate post in Illinois, he said he supported gay marriage. Eight years later, when he set his sights on the U.S. Senate, he discovered his Christian roots and said he was against it. In 2008, he said he was opposed to homosexuals marrying, but he also opposed a ballot initiative in California, Proposition 8, that affirmed marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman. In other words, his Christian roots were losing their grip. Since then he’s been “evolving.” Now the evolution is over and he has fully broken with his Christian moorings.”

Advocates of same-sex marriages were quick to praise the president. Chad Griffin, the new president of the Human Rights Campaign, spoke warmly of Obama's decision. "President Obama's words today will be celebrated by generations to come," Griffin said. "For the millions of young gay and lesbian Americans across this nation, their president's words provide genuine hope that they will be first generation to grow up with the freedom to fully pursue the American dream." In an email, Griffin asked supporters to send words of support to Obama.

Shannon Minter, of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement, "President Obama has once again proven himself to be the strongest and most principled supporter of full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people ever to occupy the Oval Office. As he has done on so many other issues facing our community, the President showed his great depth of compassion and respect for the struggles faced by same-sex couples and their families and his commitment to genuine equality and justice for all people. This is an unforgettable day in our nation's history, and one that will bring enormous comfort and hope to millions of Americans."
 



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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