WASHINGTON (BP) -- President Obama Wednesday became the first sitting U.S. president to support gay "marriage" publicly, an announcement that was surprising perhaps only in its timing and one that could impact the general election.
The announcement came one day after North Carolinians overwhelmingly affirmed the traditional definition of marriage. Four other states will consider the issue this year, a year in which Obama is seeking re-election.
Obama seemed to be forced into stating his position after Vice President Joe Biden told NBC's "Meet the Press" three days earlier that he is "comfortable" with gays and lesbians "marrying."
Obama made the announcement during an interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts.
"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. The full interview will air later Wednesday on ABC's "World News with Diane Sawyer."
Even before Obama was elected, some conservative and liberal pundits scoffed at the suggestion that Obama did not support gay "marriage." For instance, in 2008 he opposed California Prop 8, a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. In 2011 he ordered the Justice Department to stop defending in court the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage in the traditional sense, and he also announced support for a congressional bill that would overturn the law. And this year, his spokespersons announced he opposed proposed constitutional marriage amendments in North Carolina and Minnesota. He's also spoken twice to events held by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay group. Yet all along, the White House maintained he merely was "evolving" on the issue.
Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, reacted to the news with sadness.
"It is very depressing news when the president of the United States uses his power of influence to endorse same-sex marriage," Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., told Baptist Press. "... Scripture is very clear that from the beginning, God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman. It is important for us who are followers of Jesus to uphold the sacredness of marriage according to Scripture."
Wright added, "Christians are called to pray for our government leaders, and it is now more important than ever to pray for President Obama in this very misguided decision."
It remains to be seen whether it will cost Obama politically. Although some polls now show majority support for gay "marriage," it has yet to translate to the ballot. North Carolina voters Tuesday passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage between one man and one woman, and the margin of victory -- 61-39 percent -- surprised even supporters. Read More