President Obama Backs Gay Marriage in ABC Interview (Video)

Barack Obama Backs Gay Marriage Screengrab - H 2012
ABC News

Barack Obama Backs Gay Marriage Screengrab - H 2012

After members of his administration supported same-sex weddings and North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment taking rights away from gay couples, the president announced his policy change.

President Obama has endorsed gay marriage.

After years of claiming to be "evolving" on the issue, the president's hand was forced by Vice President Joe Biden, who seemingly declared his support for same-sex weddings on Meet the Press on Sunday.

In an interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts on Wednesday, Obama said: "I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have 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 are 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."

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The president's change of course comes a day after North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples legal rights, which only further stoked the fire of the debate. Obama has two crucial fundraisers coming up, one with George Clooney in Los Angeles on Thursday night -- expected to be the biggest single fundraiser in history at $12 million -- and one on Monday with Ricky Martin.

Hollywood has been vocal about its support for gay marriage, and any equivocation from the president could have made the event quite awkward. Then again, the announcement could have negative political ramifications for his re-election, as well.

The decision, Obama said, reflects what he thinks is a generational shift; young conservatives often back gay marriage, and he says that his daughters cannot understand why some people cannot wed.

"You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples," he said. "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.”

Since at least 2004, Obama has opposed gay marriage on religious grounds, though he always has been for civil unions, but acknowledged that his beliefs also played into his decision to endorse same-sex weddings. The golden rule -- treating others as you'd like to be treated -- helped seal his announcement.