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President Obama announces his support of gay marriage

5/9/2012, 5 p.m.

President Barack Obama's announcement Wednesday that he supports same-sex marriage was quickly hailed by Southland advocates of gay and lesbian weddings as a historic turning point in the fight for marriage equality.

"Today is a proud day for all Americans," said Theodore B. Olson, one of the attorneys in a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage. "The bedrock American principles of freedom and human dignity are central to the political and legal convictions of Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives alike.

"President Obama's words remind us that marriage and equality are universal values that unite us all. They remind us that we are all -- as a people and a nation -- striving to form a more perfect union," he said.

Obama made the announcement in an interview with ABC News. He conceded that he has "been going through an evolution" on the issue, and said that while he has supported equality, he has hesitated on same-sex marriage "because I thought civil unions would be sufficient."

"And I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth," Obama said.

"But I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I 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'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 same-sex couples should be able to get married."

Obama's position is not shared by his presumed re-election opponent, Republican Mitt Romney.

"When these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts, I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender and I don't favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name," Romney told a Denver television station. "My view is that domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights and the like are appropriate but the others are not."

Chad Griffin, board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, said Obama's announcement gives hope to millions of gay and lesbian couples who want to wed.

"President Obama's words today will be celebrated by generations to come," Griffin said. "For the millions of young gay and lesbian Americans across this nation, their president's words provide genuine hope that they will be the first generation to grow up with the freedom to fully pursue the American dream. Marriage -- the promise of love, companionship and family -- is basic to the pursuit of that dream."