Hillary Clinton backs gay marriage

Announcement will fuel speculation of presidential ambitions

The United States' former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her support for gay marriage today, in what could be taken as an early manoeuvre ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

In an online video posted through the Human Rights Campaign, she said that homosexuals are "full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship."

"That includes marriage," she said.

She continued: "I believe America is at its best when we champion the freedom and dignity of every human being. That's who we are. It's in our DNA."

Under Clinton, the US State Department took the promotion of gay rights around the world as official policy. She resigned the post in January this year, making way for John Kerry.

Polls show that public opinion on gay marriage has shifted perhaps more rapidly than on any other major issue in recent times. A Gallup poll last November showed 53 percent of adult Americans back same-sex marriages having the same status as heterosexual ones, while 46 percent felt they should not be valid.

In 1996, when Gallup first asked about gay marriages, only 27 percent felt they should be valid.

During the 2008 Democratic primaries, Clinton and rival Barack Obama both backed civil unions for gay couples, but not same-sex marriage. In the lead-up to the 2012 election, Obama announced his support for gay marriage.

Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said today: "The president believes that any time a public official of stature steps forward to embrace a commitment that he shares to equality, he thinks it's a good thing."

The Republican Party officially opposes gay marriage, though several high profile Republicans have publicly backed the right of same-sex couples to wed. On Friday, Ohio senator Rob Portman became the first Republican senator to announce his support for gay marriage, saying he had a change of heart after learning that his son is gay.

On Sunday, Catholic Republican House speaker John Boehner said that he was opposed to same-sex marriages for religious reasons and did not imagine ever changing his mind.

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