Gay marriage is an issue that deeply divides America especially on religious grounds and the debate surrounding same-sex marriage sparks passions on both sides. In recent days though several leading American politicians have given their backing – publicly – to gay marriage. It started with Vice President Joe Biden and then Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The fact that two high ranking politicians in the Obama administration came out as supporters of gay marriage was seen as a sign the President’s attitude on the issue was shifting.
Up until now Obama had merely stated that his views on marriage equality were “evolving” but had never gone into much more detail. With Presidential elections on the horizon it is perhaps surprising that Obama has chosen this moment in time to back marriage equality especially as his likely Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, is so opposed to gay marriages. Romney at the Republicans are likely to capitalise on Obama’s public declaration to try and gain more support from more conservative and religious voters.
President Obama, in an interview with ABC News, said ‘It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” The ABC interview, with Robin Roberts, was arranged as the president came under pressure to clarify his views on gay marriage. It also comes after North Carolina’s vote on Amendment One – which was passed – which outlawed gay marriage and civil unions in the state.
“I’ve stood on the side of broader equality for the LGBT community. I hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient. I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word ‘marriage’ was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth. But I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I talked to friends and family and neighbours, 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.” – Barack Obama speaking to ABC News
Obama is likely to come under considerable fire from more conservative elements within America for his support of gay marriage. However, the fact that the President has come out so publicly in support of marriage equality is a huge step forward for a country that is still do deeply divided about homosexuality and gay rights.
[Written by Douglas Lambert and Martha Kirkpatrick]