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In a major reversal of his position on a controversial issue in a U.S. presidential election year, President Barack Obama said Wednesday that same-sex marriage should be legal.
President Obama's stance opposing homosexual marriage, which he had described as "evolving," was a sore point for the country's gay and lesbian community, which helped elect him in 2008.
Mr. Obama has always supported efforts to ensure the same legal rights and civil liberties for gay couples as married straight couples. But his opposition to same-sex marriage was thrust back to the spotlight after Vice President Joe Biden told NBC television's Meet the Press program on Sunday that he was "absolutely comfortable" with gay marriage.
Two other administration officials, including Mr. Obama's education secretary, also voiced their support for same-sex marriage.
In a hastily-arranged interview on Wednesday with ABC News, Mr. Obama said an "evolution" in his thinking led him to the decision, influenced by conversations with his staff, gay and lesbian members of the U.S. military and his family. "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.
Mr. Obama pointed to his success in ending the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy barring openly gay persons from serving in the military, and his opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and woman. The president said he has always fought for the rights of gays and lesbians. "I have always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally," he said.
Mr. Obama stressed that although his personal view on gay marriage has changed, he still supports the right of individual U.S. states to decide the marriage issue. (...)