Romney stands by his opposition to gay marriage
by Sean Murphy and Kasie Hunt, AP
Oklahoma City, OK (AP) - Mitt Romney on Wednesday reaffirmed his view that marriage should be restricted to one man and one woman, highlighting a sharp contrast with President Barack Obama.
Obama declared his unequivocal personal support for same-sex marriage during an interview with ABC News. Reporters asked Romney about the issue after a campaign event in Oklahoma City.
"My view is that marriage itself is between a man and a woman," the presumptive Republican presidential nominee told reporters. He said he believes that states should be able to make decisions about whether to offer certain legal rights to same-sex couples.
"This is a very tender and sensitive topic, as are many social issues, but I have the same view that I've had since - since running for office," Romney said. He first ran for political office in 1994, when he challenged Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002.
Obama is the first president in history to support gay marriage. Polls show the country is evenly divided on the issue.
Romney did not go so far as to accuse Obama of changing his position on gay marriage, though the president has said that he had an "evolving" view of the subject. Questioned by reporters, Romney said news reports indicate Obama has shifted his stance.
Romney was a leading voice against gay marriage as Massachusetts governor. The courts legalized gay marriage in the state during his tenure, but he supported a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
After gay marriage became legal, Romney sought to enforce a statute banning state officials from marrying gay couples from other states. In a speech to conservatives last winter, Romney touted that move, saying he prevented Massachusetts from becoming the "Las Vegas of gay marriage."
Romney said Wednesday he supports limiting benefits for same-sex couples.
"I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name," he told the Fox TV station in Denver. "My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not."
The Romney campaign did not respond to requests for clarification about which benefits Romney supports and which he does not.
A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows independent voters trust Obama over Romney to handle social issues "such as abortion and same-sex marriage," with 39 percent favoring Obama and 22 percent favoring Romney. A majority of voters trust Obama over Romney in every age group except senior citizens.
While conservative Republicans trust Romney over Obama by wide margins, moderate and liberal Republicans are almost evenly split between Obama and Romney.
Hunt reported from Washington. Associated Press Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta and Associated Press writer Steve LeBlanc in Boston contributed to this report.
Obama gay marriage support seen as world precedent
by Jack Chang, AP
Mexico City, Mexico (AP) - President Barack Obama's announcement Wednesday that he supports gay marriage boosted the hopes of gay rights groups around the world that other leaders will follow his example. Vatican and other religious officials who oppose gay marriage stayed largely silent, while others denounced the president's position.
Gay groups lauded what they said was the tremendous precedent set by Obama and hoped for changes in their own countries. In Latin America, for example, governments in Argentina and Mexico City have passed laws permitting gay marriage, but most do not.
"This is incredibly important, it's excellent news. The United States is a global leader on everything, and that includes gay rights," said Julio Moreira, president of the Rio de Janeiro-based Arco-Iris gay rights group. "This will force other nations like Brazil to move forward with more progressive policies."
That message was echoed by some people in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, who said it was about time Obama took a positive stand on the issue.
"It's a civil liberty," said 25-year-old Duncan Bruce while smoking a cigarette outside of a London pub. "This is not to do with religion - it's about two men loving each other. If you can't get a tax break for that, it's a disgrace."
Even as religious officials didn't comment, political leaders and others opposed to gay marriage were not shy about denouncing what they said was a shameless appeal by Obama for votes. In particular, politicians tied to Pentecostal and Catholic churches have spoken out strongly against same-sex marriage in Latin America.
"Barack Obama is an ethical man and a philosophically confused man," said Peruvian congresswoman Martha Chavez of the conservative Catholic Opus Dei movement. "He knows that marriage isn't an issue only of traditions or of religious beliefs. Marriage is a natural institution that supports the union of two people of different sexes because it has a procreative function."
Religion-based opposition was also strong in Egypt's conservative Muslim-dominated society, which rejects same-sex relations. Laws prohibiting "debauchery" or "shameless public acts" have been used to imprison gay men in recent years.
"This is unacceptable, because it is against religion, traditions and against God," said engineer Shady Azer in Cairo. "God created Adam and Eve. He didn't create two Adams or two Eves."
In 2008, four HIV-positive Egyptians were sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of the "habitual practice of debauchery." Human rights groups warned that the case could undermine HIV prevention efforts in Egypt.
Actions by governments worldwide have reflected that diversity of opinion.
In 2010, Argentina became Latin America's first country to approve gay marriage. The next year, Brazil's Supreme Court approved civil unions, followed by several state courts upholding the conversion of civil unions into full marriages. The nation's top appeals court then upheld those marriages in October, setting national precedent.
Gay marriage became legal in Canada in 2005 under the country's previous Liberal government in response to court rulings that gave gay people the right to marry. Thousands of gay Canadians, as well as foreign visitors, have gotten married since then. Spain has allowed gay marriage since 2005.
"This stance will shape the way the rest of the world views the U.S., and will eventually force the way Americans see things to change," said Sasha Mohammed, 30, in Toronto. "It is, after all, impossible to overtly hold onto your prejudices when everyone around you condemns you for it."
Cesar Cigliutti, president of the Gay Community of Argentina group, said Obama was only catching up to the rest of the world.
"It seems to me that by taking this position Obama is aligning himself with the entire world, with these times we're living in, with the achievements of rights in other countries," Cigliutti said.
Meanwhile, voters in North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, mirroring efforts in several U.S. states.
In Brazil, the Catholic and evangelical churches and religious politicians continue to block the approval of any legislation in Congress enshrining gay marriage. Moreira noted that efforts by President Dilma Rousseff to promote anti-homophobia education in Brazilian schools were scuttled last year after it became clear religious legislators would block unrelated legislation in protest.
In France, outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy opposes gay marriage - though recent polls suggest that a majority of French voters support it. This Sunday's electoral victor, French President-elect Francois Hollande, made "the right to marry and adopt for all couples" part of his campaign platform, and has set legislative passage of a bill ensuring that right for no later than June of next year.
Spain adopted its gay marriage law when the country was ruled by the center-left Socialist Party, but the center-right Popular Party took control of the government late last year.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said he would prefer civil unions instead of marriages, but his administration has made no move to change the current situation. His party does have an appeal of the gay marriage law pending before the country's Constitutional Court.
Jamaica's most prominent evangelical pastor and the island's political ombudsman, Bishop Herro Blair, said late Wednesday afternoon that he was just hearing about Obama's announcement and was still taking it in.
"For now, I can say that I cannot be mad at President Obama. We are in a society where people have choices. However, my belief runs contrary to his," Blair said in Kingston, the island's capital.
In Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she won't be following Obama's lead in supporting gay marriage.
"I've made my mind up and my position on this is well known," Gillard told reporters in Canberra. "I think it just reinforces this as a matter that people form their own views on, a deeply personal question people will think about, work their way through it; obviously President Obama has and he's announced a decision."
In other words, the gay marriage debate promises to rage on around the world despite Obama's groundbreaking announcement. But for one day, at least, those on one side of the battle won a powerful ally.
"We're living in other times where acceptance is growing more and more," said restaurant owner Carlos Santiago in Mexico City's Pink Zone gay district. "It's impossible to hold back a wave, against something that is natural."
Anat Chen, a 20-year-old bartender in Jerusalem, said she expected more to come.
"Everyone should be allowed to marry whoever they want," she said. "It matters that Obama said it. Whatever happens in America, the rest of the world follows."
Associated Press writers Alan Clendenning in Madrid, Spain; David McFadden in Kingston, Jamaica; Maggie Michael in Cairo; Cassandra Vinograd in London; Isaac Garrido in Mexico City; Franklin Briceno in Lima, Peru; Bradley Brooks in Sao Paulo; Charmaine Noronha in Toronto; Ian Deitch in Jerusalem; Rod McGuirk in Canberra; and Debora Rey in Buenos Aires, Argentina contributed to this report.
Obama voices his support for gay marriage
by Julie Pace
Washington. D.C. (AP) - On the fence no longer, President Barack Obama declared his unequivocal support for gay marriage on Wednesday, a historic announcement that gave the polarizing social issue a more prominent role in the 2012 race for the White House.
The announcement was the first by a sitting president, and Republican challenger Mitt Romney swiftly disagreed with it. "I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman," he said while campaigning in Oklahoma.
Gay rights advocates cheered Obama's declaration, which they had long urged him to make. Beyond the words, one man who married his gay partner in Washington, D.C., was stirred to send a $25 contribution to the president's campaign. "Making a contribution is the best way to say thank you," said Stuart Kopperman.
Obama revealed his decision after a series of events that made clear the political ground was shifting. He once opposed gay marriage but more recently had said his views were "evolving."
In an interview with ABC in which he blended the personal and the presidential, Obama said "it wouldn't dawn" on his daughters, Sasha and Malia, that some of their friends' parents would be treated differently than others. He said he also thought of aides "who are in incredibly committed monogamous same-sex relationships who are raising kids together."
Obama added that he thought about "those soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf, and yet feel constrained even though now that `don't ask, don't tell' is gone because they're not able to commit themselves in a marriage."
The president said he was taking a personal position. Aides said the president's shift would have no impact on current policies and he continues to believe that marriage is an issue best decided by states.
"I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient," Obama said in the interview. He added, "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."
Now, he said, "it is important for me personally to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married."
He spoke on the heels of a pair of events that underscored the sensitivity of an issue that has long divided the nation.
Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview on Sunday that he is completely comfortable with gays marrying, a pronouncement that instantly raised the profile of the issue. White House aides insisted the vice president hadn't said anything particularly newsworthy, but gay rights groups cited Biden's comments in urging the president to announce his support.
On Tuesday, voters in North Carolina - a potential battleground in the fall election - approved an amendment to the state constitution affirming that marriage may only be a union of a man and a woman.
Additionally, several of the president's biggest financial backers are gay, and some have prodded him publicly to declare his support for same-sex marriage.
Senior administration officials said Obama came to the conclusion that gay couples should have the right to legally marry earlier this year and had planned to make his views known publicly before the Democratic National Convention in early September. They conceded that Biden's comments accelerated the timeline, but said the vice president's remarks were impromptu and not part of a coordinated effort to soften the ground for a shift by the president. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.
As recently as eight years ago, conservatives in several states maneuvered successfully to place questions relating to gay marriage on the election day ballot as a way of boosting turnout for President George W. Bush's re-election.
Now, nationwide polling suggests increasing acceptance of gay marriage. In a national survey released earlier this month, Gallup reported 50 percent of those polled said it should be legal, and 48 percent were opposed. Democrats favored by a margin of roughly 2-1, while Republicans opposed it by an even bigger margin. Among independents, 57 percent expressed support, and 40 percent were opposed.
Whatever the polls, the political crosscurrents are tricky, and administration officials conceded as much.
Some top aides argued that gay marriage is toxic at the ballot box in competitive states like North Carolina and said the vote there this week shows that opposition to the issue is a rallying point for Republicans.
Shifting his emphasis, even briefly, could open Obama up to Republican criticism that he is taking his eye off the economy, voters' No. 1 issue.
Yet some prominent gay donors have said publicly they wanted Obama to announce his support for gay marriage. Other Democratic supporters claim Obama's decision could energize huge swaths of the party, including young people. He also could appeal to independent voters.
By day's end Wednesday, the Obama campaign had emailed a clip of the interview and a personal statement from the president to its vast list of supporters, drawing attention to his stance.
The decision also creates an area of clear contrast between Obama and his Republican rival as he argues that he's delivered on the change he promised four years ago.
Obama said he sometimes talks with college Republicans on his visits to campuses, and while they oppose his policies on the economy and foreign policy, "when it comes to same sex equality, or, you know, sexual orientation, that they believe in equality. They are more comfortable with it."
Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage and a leading supporter of the constitutional amendment approved in North Carolina on Tuesday, said she welcomed Obama's announcement at the same time she disagreed with it.
"Politically, we welcome this," she said. "We think it's a huge mistake. President Obama is choosing the money over the voters the day after 61 percent of North Carolinians in a key swing state demonstrated they oppose gay marriage."
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi instantly sought political gain from the president's announcement. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued an email in her name that asked recipients to "stand with President Obama." Such requests are often followed by a solicitation for campaign donations.
Obama said first lady Michelle Obama also was involved in his decision and joins him in supporting gay marriage.
"In the end, the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people," he said.
Acknowledging that his support for same-sex marriage may rankle religious conservatives, Obama said he thinks about his faith in part through the prism of the Golden Rule - treating others the way you would want to be treated.
"That's what we try to impart to our kids and that's what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I'll be as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I'll be as president," Obama said.
Six states - all in the Northeast except Iowa - and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages. In addition, two other states have laws that are not yet in effect and may be subject to referendums.
AP Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and Jessica Gresko in Washington and Philip Elliott in Colorado contributed to this report.
(CBS News) May 9, 2012 -
President Obama's position on same-sex marriage has evolved.
Three days after Vice President Joe Biden said he is "absolutely comfortable" with two men or two women getting married, Mr. Obama told ABC News in a hastily arranged interview that "Americans should be treated fairly and equally."
"I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," Mr. Obama said in an interview with Robin Roberts broadcast in a special report this afternoon. More from the interview will be broadcast tonight and tomorrow morning.
The president has previously said his position on the matter is "evolving."
Georgia Democrats’ on Marriage Equality
Georgia – Mike Berlon, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, issues the following statement regarding President Barack Obama’s view that couples who are in loving, committed relationships should be allowed to marry.
“Marriage equality is an important human rights issue. Love is not partisan. Everyone should have the opportunity to engage in a relationship that works for him or her regardless of sexual preference.
“It’s no secret that the President has gone through some serious soul-searching on this. I am sure he has received input from many sources who deserve this support, including people in long-term relationships who have never had the security or certainty that comes with knowing the person you love will be protected if something happens to them. I am also sure that he has heard from many of our brave young men and women who serve in our armed forces, and for whom he fought so hard to end Don't Ask Don't Tell, as well as others from around the country.
“For many people, this is a difficult issue and opinions are strong on both sides.
“As an individual who has a family member that is in such a relationship, I've seen first-hand the obstacles and hurdles that have to be endured just to make the relationship work. It makes me very proud to see that the President recognizes the roadblocks to these relationships and is willing to advocate for equal rights for everyone. It's courageous and it's right.
“The Democratic Party of Georgia strongly stands with the LGBT community, the President and his administration, and with all Georgians who believe that we should treat others the way we’d want to be treated. That is not a democratic principle. It’s about human dignity.
“It’s simply wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, from marrying.”