President Obama on ABC News

President Obama has made history by finally announcing his support for same-sex marriage rights, the first-ever U.S. president to do so.

After previously only backing civil unions and saying that his view on the issue was “evolving”, Obama made his current thinking on the matter clear in a surprise interview with ABC News, set to be broadcast on Thursday.

“…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 said.

Obama continued: “It’s interesting, some of this is also generational. You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same sex equality or, you know, sexual orientation that they believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it.”

He added that his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, shares his views on same-sex marriage.

“You know, she feels the same way that I do. And that is in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and… we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think 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 as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I’ll be as president.”

He made clear, however, that these were his personal views and he still believes that individual states should have the right to decide on the issue.

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called Obama’s announcement “a major turning point in the history of American civil rights”.

“No American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately been adopted by the American people and I have no doubt that this will be no exception,” he said.

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres tweeted in response to the news: “Thank you President @BarackObama for your beautiful and brave words. I’m overwhelmed.”

Obama’s bold statement comes just months ahead of the presidential elections and follows the shocking rejecting of same-sex marriage rights in a referendum in North Carolina on Tuesday which saw 61% of people voting to ban gay marriage in that state.

“Today, President Obama made history by boldly stating that gay and lesbian Americans should be fully and equally part of the fabric of American society and that our families deserve nothing less than the equal respect and recognition that comes through marriage,” commented Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBT rights group in the U.S.

Incoming HRC President Chad Griffin also applauded Obama’s support for marriage equality.

“President Obama’s words today will be celebrated by generations to come. For the millions of young gay and lesbian Americans across this nation, President Obama’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,” said Griffin.

Obama’s presidency has been the most gay-friendly in U.S. history. He has overseen the reversal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ ban on gay military personnel, the passing of hate crime legislation, ordering government hospitals to respect gay families and even including LGBT rights in official U.S. foreign policy.

Watch Obama’s historic statement of support for same-sex marriage below.

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