Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.
UPDATE: Gay-right advocates can thank Joe Biden for President Obama's decision to come out when he did in favor of same-sex marriage.
In his interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts that was broadcast in full on Thursday's Good Morning America, the president said that he had already come to his own decision that gays and lesbians should be allowed to wed but that Biden's apparent gaffe over the weekend forced him to speed up his decision to go public with that belief.
"I had already made a decision that we were going to probably take this position before the election and before the convention," Obama said, adding that Biden "probably got out a little bit over his skis" with his comments, but did so "out of generosity of spirit." (You can read a full transcript of that interview here).
Biden had said he was "absolutely comfortable" with gay marriage in an interview on Sunday, allowing some to speculate that the Obama administration was about to announce a change from the president's "evolving" stance on the issue that had until Wednesday stopped short of supporting same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has already responded to the president's new position, passing a Republican-backed measure to stop the Justice Department from opposing the Defense of Marriage Act, which the administration stopped enforcing in February 2011. The amendment was added to a spending bill, as Politico reports. The measure passed 245-171 mostly along party lines, with seven Republicans opposing the amendment and 16 Democrats voting with Republicans for it.
Wednesday, May 9: President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage for the first time on Wednesday, saying that he thought it was important for him to "go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
The president delivered the news in a sit-down interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts that came one day after North Carolina became the 30th state in the nation to approve a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.
"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," Obama told Roberts.
ABC is expected to make the most of its big get by spacing out clips from it over a handful of its news programs, but the network broke into its daytime programming to air the excerpt in question shortly after the interview wrapped up Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, the White House reportedly scrambled to set-up the interview to give Obama the chance to discuss his views on gay marriage, which had previously been described as "evolving" by the president and his team. The afternoon press briefing at the White House was also canceled, an indication that the president was likely to make news during his ABC sit-down.
Obama's election-year endorsement of gay matrimony comes in the middle of a week that has seen the issue at the center of the national conversation, thanks in large part to Vice President Joe Biden's Sunday suggesting that he was "absolutely comfortable" with allowing gays and lesbians to wed.
Those comments, along with similar ones from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, appeared to energize many on the left and increase liberal pressure on President Obama to speak out in favor of same-sex marriage, something he had previously opted against while at the same time lending his support to the notion of civil unions.
In The Audacity of Hope, published in 2006, Obama wrote that it was his "obligation not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society, but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided." (Politico has a solid look back at Obama's somewhat varying stances on the issue over the years here.)
It's unclear exactly what impact Obama's new gay-marriage position will have on November's election. While his decision to leave the sidelines on the issue will likely energize many on the left, it's also sure to rally the conservative base.
A new poll released this week found that 50 percent of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to wed, while 48 percent oppose it. The issue is particularly polarizing along party lines with 65 percent of Democrats supporting legalizing same-sex marriage, compared with only 22 percent of Republicans who do so. Perhaps a particularly important takeaway, however, was that 57 percent of independents said gay marriage should be legal. You can read more from the poll results here.