President Obama told ABC News today that he supports same-sex marriage, saying that he believes same-sex couples should be able to marry.
"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 News' Robin Roberts.
The President's statement appears closer to his stance in 2004, when he expressed support for civil unions but not marriage for gay couples. In 2010, Obama said that his views on same-sex marriage were "constantly evolving." But he said then and in interviews since that he believed civil unions could provide same-sex couples with the same legal rights as marriage does.
President Obama's position on the issue of marriage became an issue earlier this week after Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan each stated their support for same-sex marriage. The comments were applauded by advocates for same-sex marriage who hoped that the President would also speak out in favor of it.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney fielded numerous questions at a briefing, where he told the press that Obama's personal position was still "evolving."
"The President was asked this and said that his views on—his personal views on this were evolving," Carney said. "The President does have, as you noted, significant support in the LGBT community, and that's because of his unparalleled record in support of LGBT rights."
The interview with ABC News was hastily planned as a way for the President to personally clarify his position and put the controversy to rest. When a President cancels a press conference for an interview, pundits assume the purpose is to control the message and make an announcement.
Obama said his support for same-sex marriage is consistent with his Christian beliefs.
"[Michelle and I] 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," Obama said. "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."
Until Biden's comments, Obama was able to avoid talking about the contentious issue. His position of opposing marriage while supporting civil unions enabled him to keep different constituencies satisfied. Supporters of same-sex marriage pushed him to support marriage but could accept that he could not support it because of many religious conservatives in the Democratic Party, particularly older voters and African Americans.
Before today's interview, Family Research Council Action's Tom McClusky tweeted, "I think the only announcement Pres Obama could say today on marriage that would surprise anyone is that he is marrying Joe Biden."
When asked Wednesday morning, Republican nominee Mitt Romney said that he does not support same-sex marriage or most civil unions.
"I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name," Romney said. "My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights and the like are appropriate, but that the others are not."
In North Carolina, most primary voters sided with Romney's position. Six in ten voters approved a state constitutional amendment that states, "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State."
The Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, this summer, and some Democratic leaders are being pressured to add a plank to the party platform on same-sex marriage. Last week, 11 state party leaders signed an open letter advocating for a marriage plank advocated by Freedom to Marry.