Barack Obama defies Bible Belt with support for gay marriage

 

Raleigh, North Carolina

After years of equivocating on an issue that divides his country, President Barack Obama came out in favour of gay marriage in the US last night and suddenly injected an unpredictable social issue into a re-election campaign that had been expected to be fought on the economy.

Mr Obama's declaration was greeted with elation by gay rights campaigners who, just hours earlier, had been rocked by an overwhelming vote in North Carolina that amended the state constitution to bar same-sex marriages.

"It is important for me personally to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married," the President said in a television interview, ending a long period in which he had frustrated many supporters by refusing to address the issue. He campaigned in 2008 on a platform in favour only of civil unions, and the White House has said since then that his position is "evolving".

Mr Obama said: "I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient. I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people the word 'marriage' was something that invokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth."

There could be no more vivid demonstration of that than the vote in North Carolina on Tuesday, in which an uncompromising measure banning not just marriage but also civil unions passed by a 61 to 39 per cent margin.

All the so-called "Bible Belt" states in the south-eastern US have now taken similar steps; 29 US states have passed constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriage. However, gay rights campaigners have also taken many significant steps forward, amid polls that show support for same-sex marriage rising to about 50 per cent across the country with even higher figures among the youngest voters who overwhelmingly backed Mr Obama in 2008. Marriage licences are now issued to same-sex couples in six states and in Washington DC, while laws are pending to make them available in two more.

Mr Obama's stance puts a wedge between him and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, who said last night that he did not support same-sex marriage or civil unions.

What had seemed like a minor kerfuffle when Vice-President Joe Biden proclaimed himself "entirely comfortable" with gay marriage at the weekend, now seemed like part of a choreographed effort by the White House to energise the Democrat party base and to put Mr Obama on the right side of a civil rights issue that appears to be gaining momentum.

"President Obama's words today will be celebrated by generations to come," said Chad Griffin, president of the gay rights lobby group the Human Rights Campaign.

In North Carolina, campaigners vowed to fight to overturn the marriage ban. "We can't change the results of this vote, but we can determine what comes next," vowed Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, of the Campaign for Southern Equality.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £35k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Recruitment Genius: Piece Dyed Coordinator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award winning UK textile innovator specia...

Recruitment Genius: Piece Dyed Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award winning UK textile innovator specia...

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Sales Consultant / Presales Engineer / Sales Engineer

£55000 - £75000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Software House that produces ...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen