President Barack Obama stopped “evolving” his position on gay marriage on Wednesday and said he has finally made up his mind: he supports it, unequivocally.
In a development being equated with civil rights that came many decades ago, Obama became the first US president to publicly support gay marriage. And, experts said, the last time a US president would oppose it.
India is a long way from it though, undoing only recently a longtime criminal ban on same-sex sex. Gay marriage is not even an issue there yet.
“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 ABC television.
The president, said some commentator had been forced into this by his vice-president Joe Biden who said Sunday he was personally “comfortable” with same-sex marriage. The next day, education secretary Arne Duncan echoed Biden.
The president’s own position till now had been that his views in the issue were “evolving”.
Though not openly in favour of same-sex marriage, Obama had supported gays, making it legal for them to serve in US military by getting rid of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell law.
Biden might have looked like having outgunned his boss, but the vice-president might have played his part in a well orchestrated coming out by Obama.
A third view had Biden jumping the gun. The president apparently had planned to announce his support for gay marriage for later in the year.
Whatever the reason, Obama seemed to have taken this decision with some risk to his re-election bid. America has yet to make up its mind one way or the other, completely.
Gallup showed that 50% of Americans support same-sex marriage — though down from 53% a few months ago —but 48% opposed it. Not a happy breakup for a candidate. There was speculation that the president’s same-sex marriage decision might not go down well with African-Americans, his strongest support base.
But African-Americans are unlikely to abandon Obama. “(Abandoning him is) equal to establishing a colony on Mars,” said a Washington university professor. Obama, of course, decided to go with the risk.
“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 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 said during an interview.