Updated: 3:36 p.m.
President Barack Obama came out in support of gay marriage this afternoon, saying that he evolved to that position over several years.
“I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient,” Obama told ABC’s Robin Roberts. “I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth.”
But Obama said that he had talked with friends and family over several years and ultimately changed his view.
“I 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.
Obama’s “evolving” on the issue had become untenable after members of his administration, including Vice President Joseph Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, declared support for gay marriage a few days ago. Initially, the Obama re-election campaign tried to downplay Biden’s comments, and White House spokesman Jay Carney spent much of this week deflecting questions on the issue.
Obama’s position made him look weak, but coming out for such a divisive issue also is a big political risk because states across the country, including yesterday in North Carolina, have voted in large numbers to ban gay marriage.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has repeated his opposition to gay marriage and said he doesn’t plan on changing that position.
ABC aired some of the footage today and will air more tonight on the evening news and tomorrow on “Good Morning America.”
According to ABC, the president said he still supports states deciding the issue, but said he’s confident Americans will grow comfortable with gay marriage. He noted his own daughters are comfortable with it.
“It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” Obama said. “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.”