(Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that his "evolution" on same-sex marriage is complete. He favors allowing gay couples to marry.
Obama mentioned, in particular, gay members of his staff and the military as being influential in his decision.
"As I talked to friends, 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, sailors who are fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that 'don't ask, don't tell' is gone, because they're 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 that same-sex couples should be able to get married," Obama said at a hastily scheduled interview with ABC News.
Obama had come under increasing pressure to take a more definitive stance on the issue after Vice President Joe Biden seemed to announce that he favored gay marriage in a Sunday interview before White House staffers backtracked on Biden's remarks. Biden's interview was followed Monday morning by Education Secretary Arne Duncan announcing that he supported same-sex marriage.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama said he supported civil unions for gay couples but believed marriage is only for a man and a woman. In 2010, he admitted that he struggled with the issue and that his views were "constantly evolving." In Wednesday's interview, he said he came to his new position over the course of several years.
Citing his faith, he told ABC, "In the end, the values that I care most deeply about, and she (Michelle Obama) cares most deeply about is how we treat other people. We're both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but 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 – treat others the way you'd want to be treated.
"I figure the more consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I'll be as a dad and as a husband and hopefully the better I'll be as a president."
White House press briefings became heated this week after the press corps pushed White House spokesperson Jay Carney to give a more thorough explanation of where Obama stood on the issue. Many took the cynical view that Obama was already in favor of gay marriage, but was waiting until after the next election to announce it.
Obama was also under pressure from liberal and gay donors. Some were withholding from giving money to a super PAC supporting Obama unless he issued an executive order banning discrimination based upon sexual orientation by federal contractors. There is no word yet on whether he has changed his position on that issue.
Obama's announcement comes the day after North Carolina voters passed an amendment to their state constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
Obama had already decided that his administration would not defend a section of the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between one man and one woman for the purposes of federal law -- a position that had seemed to be in contradiction to his previous opposition to same-sex marriage.
The full interview will air Wednesday night on ABC's "World News Tonight" and Thursday morning on ABC's "Good Morning America."