Obama: Same-Sex Marriage Should Be Legal

The same-sex marriage pivot that everyone was expecting has come.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, President Obama announced today in an interview with ABC News’s Robin Roberts that he now believes that same-sex marriage should be legalized:

President Obama today announced that he now supports same-sex marriage, reversing his longstanding opposition amid growing pressure from the Democratic base and even his own vice president.

In an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, the president described his thought process as an “evolution” that led him to this place, based on conversations with his own staff members, openly gay and lesbian service members, and conversations with his wife and own daughters.

“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 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,” Obama told Roberts, in an interview to appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday. Excerpts of the interview will air tonight on ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer.”

The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own. But he said he’s confident that more Americans will grow comfortable with gays and lesbians getting married, citing his own daughters’ comfort with the concept.

“It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” the president continued. “You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same sex equality or, you know, sexual orientation that they believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”

Roberts asked the president if First Lady Michelle Obama was involved in this decision. Obama said she was, and he talked specifically about his own faith in responding.

“This is something that, you know, we’ve talked about over the years and she, you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do. And that is that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I’ll be as president.”

As I said, this isn’t entirely surprising. This Administration has been more open to gay rights issues than any previous Democratic or Republican Administration, as evidenced by the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the decision to decline to defense the Constitutionality of Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act in Federal Court have indicate quite clearly. It’s probably not what the Administration was planning to do this week, but after the comments by Vice-President Biden on Sunday and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and the fact that this story clearly wasn’t going to go away until they addressed it with something more clear than the “evolving” comment, their hand was kind of forced.  It’s also likely not a coincidence that this happened after the vote in North Carolina on Amendment One. The issue was on the table and the press would continue asking about it until they got a clear answer, so it’s for the best that they addressed it now rather than dragging it out any longer.

This will no doubt get a lot of attention from the news media, and the GOP, but we should at least be honest about one thing. It’s undoubtedly historical for an American President to endorse same-sex marriage. Even if it doesn’t necessarily lead to anything immediate in terms of legislation, it’s a fairly important use of the Bully Pulpit. Nonetheless, nobody should be surprised about this. As I noted, it’s been clear for some time that Obama was moving in this direction, that was obvious the minute he started describing his position on the issue as “evolving,” but the Administration has been doing it’s best to keep the issue quiet out of fear of the possible political implications of the announcement that’s been made today. It’s only because of Biden, Duncan, and a White House Press Corps that knew it had an issue that it could keep pressing the Administration on until it got a straight answer, that we came to this day. I am glad to see the President getting to this position, but I guess the question is what took you so long?

It’s worth noting, finally, what the President did and didn’t say here. His statement seems to make clear that this is a personal opinion, so it’s unclear what kind of policy changes this might mean for the Administration. For example, does the Obama Administration now support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act? He also says that he believes the matter should be left up to the states. Does that mean that the Administration would oppose any effort to force states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage to recognize the validity of marriages from states that do under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of Article IV of the Constitution? What about spousal benefits for members of the military and Federal Government employees who happen to be legally married to persons of the same sex? These are questions that someone, no doubt, will ask, and the Administration will be forced to answer them at some point.

Here’s the video that ABC has released so far, the rest of the interview will air tonight on World News Tonight and tomorrow on Good Morning America:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

This post has been added to since originally published

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Gender Issues, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Septimius says:

    President Barack Obama: Profile in Courage!

  2. Fiona says:

    I don’t doubt that Obama has been okay with gay marriage for quite some time, but it’s still somewhat surprising for him to come out in favor of it given that he usually tries so hard to split the middle.

  3. anjin-san says:

    Good for him. Kind of a marked contrast to the utterly spineless Romney, who tried to fade into the wallpaper as a GOP debate audience booed a gay soldier.

  4. anjin-san says:

    Maybe Romney will declare another “Day of Shame”…

  5. michael reynolds says:

    Actually it surprised me. Not the substance, but the timing.

  6. Hey Norm says:

    @ Septimius…
    The actions he took…the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the decision to decline to defense the Constitutionality of Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act in Federal Court…were profiles in courage.
    What happened today are just words.
    I know it confuses Republicans that actions matter more than words…but the world is a complex place…try not to be scared.

  7. Hey Norm says:

    @ M. Reynolds…
    I agree…but why not just do it and move on…letting it go on and on was all down-side…getting it out of the way has limited down-side. Well…except for Fox News…where he can’t win anyway.
    Certainly he should have done it ages ago…assuming he had actually decided.
    I have to guess you don’t repeal DADT without being OK with same-sex marriage.

  8. PJ says:

    Asked About Gay Marriage, Romney Doesn’t Answer

    Brave Sir Mittens ran away.
    Bravely ran away, away!
    When danger reared its ugly head,
    He bravely turned his tail and fled.
    Yes, brave Sir Mittens turned about
    And gallantly he chickened out.
    Bravely taking to his feet
    He beat a very brave retreat,
    Bravest of the brave, Sir Mittens!

  9. michael reynolds says:

    Either that or claim he himself actually did it.

  10. Mikey says:

    I’m glad he’s finally come out and said it, but the whole “my position is evolving” for the past several years was just ludicrous. And the fact he finally finished with the “evolving” the day after North Carolina banned gay marriage just looks like craven pandering.

    None of that is meant to dismiss the importance of a President openly supporting gay marriage, but it looks a whole lot more like politics than conviction to me. YMMV.

  11. Scott says:

    About time. I wonder if there would have been an impact on NC if he said this two days ago. Probably nothing or worse. It is also good to do this six months out from the election.

  12. legion says:

    @Mikey: I disagree – if anything, after the NC vote _against_ gay marriage, this actually does come off as rather courageous – craven pandering would have been to take a direct question about his opinion on the matter and give a wishy-washy or dog-whistle-filled response. Count me among the people who are surprised (pleasantly so).

  13. Scott says:

    @Mikey: Regardless of what he says, he may actually still be genuinely uncomfortable with SSM. His head may be leading his heart on this issue. But, of course, that is uninformed commentary on my part.

  14. Tillman says:

    This won’t matter until he starts to argue for gay marriage in the context of a civil right and emphasizing the separation between church and state.

  15. @michael reynolds:

    As I noted in the post, I think their hand was forced between the Biden and Duncan statements and the fact that the press was not going to stop asking about this until they got a straight answer.

  16. Mikey says:

    @legion: Maybe so. Perhaps he saw this as an opportunity to state his position when the issue had a high level of awareness, and my estimation of his motivation is wrong.

  17. Brett says:

    I don’t think this will mean much in terms of the Presidential Race, although Romney and the Republicans will no doubt try to raise the issue again at some point. Most of the people who are going to go, “Obama supports gay marriage?! The monster!” aren’t the type of people who would vote for him anyways in November.

  18. Jeremy R says:

    Doug: It’s worth noting, finally, what the President did and didn’t say here. His statement seems to make clear that this is a personal opinion, so it’s unclear what kind of policy changes this might mean for the Administration. For example, does the Obama Administration now support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act?

    Yes. He’s opposed it in every public statement he’s ever made, calling it abhorrent all the way back in “2004”. When he ran for Senate and the Presidency he campaigned on its repeal. During his presidency he’s backed legislative efforts to the end. For example:


    The Respect for Marriage Act, sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), “would take the Defense of Marriage Act off the books for once and for all,” and Obama is “proud” to support it, Carney said.

  19. Jeremy R says:

    @Jeremy R:

    Just to be totally clear, the President throughout his political career has backed repealing DOMA.

  20. Jeremy,

    Thank you, I’d actually missed that. Or, more likely, forgotten

  21. Jeremy R says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The admin has also gone through multiple rounds of extending more and more federal benefits to same sex partners. I’m pretty sure you’re correct on military service member benefits though — I don’t think that’s been addressed yet.

  22. Will says:

    Doug is working awfully hard here to convince everyone that this is NOT A BIG DEAL.

  23. @Will:

    Anyone who claims this is a “surprising” announcement. Something CNN anchors have said three times in the last two hours by the way. Is being kind of silly.

  24. hoob says:

    Courageous? meh… I wonder what was so confusing about the issue that it took this long to come to that conclusion?

    Sometimes straight up democracy seems like a bad idea… as in the case of having people vote on if same sex marriage should be legal. Often these votes show a disproportionate amount of support for banning it. There’s no solid reasoning behind it – which doesn’t cite religion or bad science – its just popular opinion (of those who vote).

    I’ve never, ever, heard a valid reason for banning same sex marriage that didn’t involve religion or assumptions that shouldn’t be used (e.g. “Same sex couples can’t raise kids as well”. Besides the bad science, who in the world said you must have a kid when you get married?) yet somehow, someway, a large part of the country bans it.

    I really can’t understand why it’s so hard to see that it’s an obvious breach of equality and the banning of same sex marriage should be considered unconstitutional.

  25. Septimius says:

    @Hey Norm:

    the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the decision to decline to defense the Constitutionality of Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act in Federal Court…were profiles in courage.

    Not really. Those were political calculations designed to placate a very vocal faction of the Democrat base. Guess what? It didn’t work. That is the only reason for today’s announcement. Even now, he is dissembling. He “personally” believes that gays should be allowed to marry, but wants to leave it up to the states. Clearly, he doesn’t view this as a constitutional issue or a matter of equal rights.

  26. PogueMahone says:

    Like Brett, I believe that those who are fervently against SSM aren’t voting for Obama anyway and that it won’t have that much of an effect on the election.

    However, there actually may be a positive because of this. According to the polls, college age voters have lost some enthusiasm for Obama. This latest development might work in Obama’s favor.

    I’ve recently been working with a lot of college students lately (here in conservative Texas), and I can tell you that from what I’ve seen, these youngsters view homosexuality with total acceptance… People who are their friends – and Obama just recognized a view of equality for them.

    That could have a positive effect.


  27. Hey Norm says:

    I have to say…I was in the Doug school of thought…no big deal…his hand was really forced.
    But apparently, to a lot of people, this is a really big f’ing deal.
    And if you think about it…when history is written…it won’t matter why…only that he did.
    Taken with DADT and refusing to defend DOMA…Obama may be remembered as the Abe Lincoln of Gay Rights.

  28. Will says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I was surprised. Everyone I know who isn’t a pundit is surprised. This took a lot more guts than people are giving him credit for.

  29. Will,

    The timing was surprising but, as I said, the Administration got its hand forced this week.

    The fact that Barack Obama supports SSM? That’s not surprising at all. It would be surprising if he didn’t

  30. Jeremy R says:


    I was surprised as well.

    I expected the President’s old position, which is basically his personal religious understanding of marriage and then how he doesn’t feel there should be discriminatory Constitutional Amendments and legislation, that he’s worked to undo those at the federal level, and that he’s worked to extend federal benefits to same sex couples, etc. I then expected a truly apocalyptic left-wing blogosphere freak-out for this “betrayal”.

  31. G.A. says:

    You people don’t understand that he just lost the election? lol….Oh well….

  32. Tillman says:

    @Hey Norm: So he’d be Gabe Lincoln?

  33. PJ says:

    Don’t tell us he lost your vote…

  34. Xerxes says:

    It is a joke. Obama’s comments still endorse the actions of North Carolina. He says it is a states’ rights issue. Well, some LGBT activists will call that a cop-out, and deservedly so. Look, fellas, if he was serious, he would tell the DNC to choose a host site outside of North Carolina after what happened last night. Why isn’t he? This is Charlie Crist style gimmick! He saw the pressure from the base growing and he acted.

  35. Jr says:

    And watch the GOP shoot themselves in the foot by making this an issue.

    The President realized that social issues are just not that big of a game changer……it too bad the GOP hasn’t realized that yet.

  36. Hey Norm says:

    @ Septimius…
    That faction had been vocal for a long time…it still took cajones to do it. There are plenty of vocal factions that don’t get satisfaction. Supporters of single payer health care for instance. Or people who want out of Afghanistan yesterday.
    Look – he’s not going to get credit for anything from a lot of people….there is an entire segment of the nation that wouldn’t even give Obama credit if he got Bin Laden…oh…er…wait…
    Anyway…the fact is that Marriage is a state issue. To me the only way it becomes a constitutional issue is if state statutes are contested. This is an issue best handled by state legislatures.
    Of course N. Carolina made a fool of itself yesterday. But NC was never in danger of being accused of being part of the modern world anyway.

  37. anjin-san says:

    @ Will

    Courage? It take courage to write 50 or 60 blog posts a week about how “both sides do it”.

    For a President to step up in defense of the rights of a minority in the face of a rabid opposition party during an election year takes no courage at all.

  38. Hey Norm says:

    And it’s another day, week, month we aren’t talking about the economy that Republicans have sabotaged.

  39. Jeremy R says:


    It is a joke. Obama’s comments still endorse the actions of North Carolina.

    Except that he’s been publicly opposed to NC’s Amendment 1 since March. I know, just a minor detail.

  40. Hey Norm says:

    @ Tillman…

  41. Hey Norm says:

    Actually G.A…I think it’s just the opposite.
    Watch the bump.

  42. Simo Hayha says:


    Bravo!!!! Some gay blogs are outraged that Obama did not go further. They are seeing him baking a cake and eating it too, metaphorically

  43. anjin-san says:

    George Takei’s Facebook page is pretty much a must read:


  44. Hey Norm says:

    I have to go back to the pessimism thread from yesterday…
    One party is moving forward, even if this is only symbolic.
    One is on the wrong side of history, as Shep Smith said on Fox News.
    It’s hard to make a positive message out of denying the rights of others.

  45. Hey Norm says:

    @ anjin-san…
    Did you see the post on the Takei site that said:
    North Carolina…where you can marry your cousin…just not your gay cousin.

  46. anjin-san says:

    @ Hey Norm

    That was a classic. I love his stuff, he has leveraged his fame in the best way possible. Interesting that Nichelle Nichols’ role on Star Trek was important enough to the civil rights movement for Dr. King to talk her out of quitting, and 45 years later Takei has a significant role in the gay rights movement. More proof Roddenberry was a genius…

  47. @Hey Norm:

    Obama may be remembered as the Abe Lincoln of Gay Rights.

    If the rumors are true, wouldn’t the Abe Lincoln of Gay Rights be the actual Abe Lincoln?

  48. Delmar says:

    It “should be legal” if the citizens feel that way and can express that through the ballot box. This is not an area for the Federal government, politicians, or judges to get into on either side. It would best be left for the voters of each county to decide what they want.

  49. mattt says:

    “To the surprise of absolutely nobody…”

    I was surprised. I thought that for political reasons, Obama would try to avoid getting pinned down on this till after the election.

    EJ Graff was surprised.

    Others are speechless.

    It’s important to pundits like Doug to deny Obama any credit for being on the right side of big issues. After all if one side is in the right and the other wrong, what becomes of the precious “bipartisan compromise” that Doug and his ilk hold so dear? So since Obama is in the right here, of course his hand must have been forced.

  50. WR says:

    @Delmar: ” It would best be left for the voters of each county to decide what they want.”

    Tell you what, Delmar, let’s take the most intimate parts of your private life and leave it for the citizens of your state to decide if you should be allowed to have them. Think you’d like that?

  51. jenos Chinos says:

    Anyone who wants to know about courage need look no further than at Mitt Romney and the way he saved the auto industry in its darkest hour.

    This is a man who stands up for what he believes in – often he stands alone, but that is ok. It’s just the kind of guy he is.

    Auto workers should be ashamed that they did not show up at his rally in Detroit to give thanks. He had seats for all of them.

  52. Anderson says:

    @Fiona: Yeah, given Obama’s “split the middle” philosophy, I’d have expected him to say he favored only *lesbian* marriage.

  53. Tano says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    If the rumors are true, wouldn’t the Abe Lincoln of Gay Rights be the actual Abe Lincoln?

    The rumors seem not to be very credible, but even if they were – no. Being gay is one thing, advancing gay rights is a separate issue. What did Abe ever do for the latter?

  54. al-Ameda says:


    You people don’t understand that he just lost the election? lol….Oh well….

    Most people who are married to a sister, brother, or first cousin agree with you.

  55. Moderate Mom says:

    I can’t imagine why anyone ever thought he really opposed same sex marriage. In 1996, when running for the Illinois Senate, he completed and signed a questionnaire saying that he supported same sex marriage. It wasn’t until he ran for the United States Senate in 2004 that he suddenly discovered that his Christian faith led him to change his mind and oppose same sex marriage. All of this was known in the run-up to the Presidential election. He carried this stance throughout the 2008 election and, after being inaugurated, started the process of “evolving”.

    Some might consider today’s announcement no more than craven politics. I think the point where he exhibited cravenness was when he denied being for same sex marriage, because it was politically expedient to do so. If Biden had not committed one of his infamous gaffes, the President would still be “evolving” until sometime after the first week of November.

  56. G.A. says:

    Don’t tell us he lost your vote…

    I don’t vote for communists, abortionists, or brainwashed megalomaniacs….

    Actually G.A…I think it’s just the opposite.
    Watch the bump.

    Norm he just Fluked himself….

    Most people who are married to a sister, brother, or first cousin agree with you.

    I was not thinking about him losing the Mormon vote…. lol…..

  57. george says:

    Kind of surprised he did it now – but its the right thing to do.

  58. Michelle says:

    • Obama Gay Marriage Law
    Our country is suppose to be a Christian Country, since our four fathers found this country they made this country a Christian Country and they fought to keep it that way, many died for our Freedom and to keep it a Christian country. They wrote out the Bill of Rights, Constitution.
    I encourage you to think hard and long when the time comes to vote. As a Christian I strongly DO NOT BELIEVE in same sex marriage nor same sex period at all. Those that DO NOT live by God’s rules will stand before him and have to answer for his/her sins and he will judge you for what you do wrong. We are all sinners.
    John Adams
    To achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God. The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost. . . . There is no authority, civil or religious – there can be no legitimate government but what is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words damnation. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company: I mean hell.3
    The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be! I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world.
    Many others and you will find them on http://www.wallbuilders.com/
    Geneses 2:23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
    Geneses 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
    In Genesis 16 Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
    Jacob marries the sisters Rachel and Leah.
    Six wives of David are named in 2 Sam. 3:2.
    Solomon is described as having seven hundred wives
    1 Corinthians 6:9-10
    Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
    Leviticus 20:13
    If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
    Sodom and Gomorrah — Destroyed by God because of homosexuality Genesis chapters 11-14 and 19
    The term “going after strange flesh” is explained to us in Proverbs 7:5 and Romans 1:26-27…
    Jude 1:7 clearly implies homosexuality
    God gave them up, obviously, Sodom’s sins were more than fornication; to that which is forbidden by God for us to have, it is flesh outside the bounds of God’s laws.
    God destroys Sodom for their sins telling Lot, his wife and children to leave and not to look back. But Lot’s wife disobeyed and turned around and became a pillar of salt. King David is a decent of Lot.