Obama makes history as he supports gay marriage

US President Barack Obama speaks during the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) 18th Annual Gala Dinner in Washington on May 8, 2012. AFP PHOTO

What you need to know:

  • Same-sex couples should be able to get married, leader tells ABC News


US President Barack Obama took a calculated gamble and stepped into the political unknown yesterday with his firm public backing for gay marriage, after a long period of personal soul searching.

Obama’s move, in an interview with ABC News, sent seismic waves through pre-election politics and sparked immediate speculation as to whether he had hindered his chances of winning a second term in November.

But it also led his election foe Mitt Romney and his Republicans onto tricky ground, as the party’s social conservative base opposes same sex marriage, even as it becomes quickly more accepted across the broader political spectrum.

“I’ve just concluded, 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,” Mr Obama said, unveiling his bombshell.

Mr Obama has now abandoned the sheltered but increasingly untenable position that he was “evolving” on gay marriage.

The risks are clear, and dictated Mr Obama’s previous stance, despite fierce pressure for a more unequivocal stance from Obama’s liberal base.

The sudden injection of a divisive moral-social question could hit Mr Obama’s prospects in battleground states that he needs in November.

He has always had trouble connecting with white, blue collar, socially conservative swing voters, and Wednesday’s move will hardly help.

A case in point is North Carolina, which Obama won by less than one per cent in 2012. On Tuesday 61 per cent in the state voted to ban gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Some observers feel Mr Obama could face a backlash from religious Hispanic and African-American voters, who helped sweep him into the White House in 2008.

Gay rights groups cheered the announcement by President Obama that he supports same-sex marriage.

“Congratulations, Mr President, for making history today by becoming the first sitting president to explicitly support marriage for same-sex couples,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“Who benefits? Millions of families who now know that their country’s leader believes in fairness for all. This is a great day for America,” said Carey in a statement.

But, Mr Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which actively campaigns against same-sex marriage, said Mr Obama had now made the definition of marriage “a defining issue” in the upcoming elections.

“God is the author of marriage, and we will not let an activist politician like Barack Obama turn marriage into something political that can be redefined according to presidential whim,” he said in a statement. (AFP)