WASHINGTON (CBS13/AP) — President Barack Obama has declared his unequivocal support for gay marriage, becoming the first president to endorse the politically explosive idea.
And reaction to the move, which injects a polarizing issue into the 2012 race for the White House, is coming in fast.
Several California politicians quickly sent statements applauding the President’s support of same-sex marriage.
California Senator Barbara Boxer released a statement saying, “This is a historic day and another step in our country’s long march toward equal rights and justice for all. The President’s statement is a milestone and so important for the millions of American families who deserve full equality. None of us can rest until marriage equality is a reality for all Americans.”
State Senator Mark Leno, who authored California’s first bills that would have legalized gay marriage, echoed Sen. Boxer calling the announcement “historic”. Leno also said, “I applaud President Obama for standing up for freedom, justice and equality for all people in a time when other elected officials are reluctant to do so. Denying committed same-sex couples the choice to marry has no benefit to our society and only divides communities and hurts loving couples and their families.”
Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he’s never been more proud of the President. He went on to say, “I can only hope the President’s personal position will swell the tide of public opinion to end prejudice against the LGBT community.”
Obama revealed his support for gay marriage in an interview with ABC News.
Obama said, “I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient.” He added that he “was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people the word `marriage’ was something that invokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth.”
Now, he said, “it is important for me personally to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
He says he came to the conclusion over the course of several years of talking to family and friends.
Obama had refused to take a clear stand for months, but today’s announcement cheered gay rights groups who have long urged him to support gay marriage. It also opens up a distinct area of disagreement with Mitt Romney, who opposes gay marriage.
Polling suggests the nation is evenly divided on the issue.
A recent California poll finds that six out of every 10 voters in California now support allowing same-sex couples to get married, a significant increase since the state voted to ban same-sex marriage a little more than two years ago.
The Field Poll published in late February found that of the 515 registered voters surveyed, 59 percent said they favored extending regular marriage rights to same-sex couples. When the state’s gay marriage ban, known as Proposition 8, passed in November 2008, the figure stood at 49 percent.
According to the poll, support for legalizing same-sex marriages extends across many demographic groups and to every region of the state.
Republicans, voters who described themselves as politically conservative or Protestant, and those ages 65 and over were the only segments that did not have at least half of the respondents backing gay marriage.