Over the past few years President Obama has been doing lots of thinking about gay marriage. In an interview with ABC News, the president says he now believes same sex couples should be allowed to wed.
"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," he says.
Mr. Obama is the first president to endorse homosexual marriage. It's a major shift for him. The last time he ran for the White House he was opposed to it. He offered ABC News' Robin Roberts a glimpse into his evolution, saying he has "hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient."
He added that he is "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."
He's right. Matt Smith, president of Catholic Advocate says, "Marriage was created long before any government came into existence. It is a settled issue in the eyes of the Catholic Church and should not be redefined."
President Obama told Roberts he's been affected by the gay and lesbian people he's met.
"When I think members of my own staff," he says, "who are in incredibly committed, monogamous same sex relationships who are raising kids together. When I think about those soldiers, or airmen or marines of 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."
Gay marriage was already a major issue in the upcoming presidential race among a number of voting blocs. Now it's amplified. The president's stance on it is something he was expected to clarify during the course of the race. It was sped up when his vice president spoke out on Sunday, saying men should be allowed to marry men and women should be allowed to marry women.
Mr. Obama's interview with Ms. Roberts was only scheduled yesterday late in the afternoon. Soon-to-be-GOP nominee Mitt Romney is opposed to gay marriage. Both candidates have said this election will present two separate visions, the issue of gay marriage sharpens that reality.
Smith says, "Many faithful Catholics were fooled by clever political rhetoric in 2008. This year, the anti-Catholic record of the Obama administration should inform their vote."