President Obama announced Wednesday that he believes same-sex couples should be granted the right to marry, becoming the first U.S. president in history to fully embrace that level of civil rights for gays.
Obama’s announcement gave an immediate jolt to the decades-long movement for gay equality at a moment when a growing number of states are moving to ban — or legalize — same-sex unions and as polls show a majority of Americans support marriage rights.
For Obama personally, the disclosure completed a long conversion process that advisers said ended earlier this year after soul-searching and talks with his family.
“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 in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News.
Obama had hinted at that sentiment for years as he repeatedly said his views on gay marriage were “evolving,” but his statement still came as a dramatic election-year revelation that promised to energize advocates on both sides. Gay rights activists and many Democrats embraced the news, but some religious leaders, including one of Obama’s spiritual advisers, said they were distraught.