WASHINGTON - In an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts, President Barack Obama says he now supports same-sex marriage, ending months of equivocation on a subject with powerful election-year consequences.
WATCH A PORTION OF THE INTERVIEW IN THE VIDEO PLAYER BELOW
The announcement was the first by a sitting president, and Republican challenger Mitt Romney swiftly disagreed with it. "I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman," he said while campaigning in Oklahoma.
Obama says he has concluded that it is important for him to affirm that he thinks same-sex couples should be able to get married. He says he came to the conclusion over the course of several years of talking to family and friends.
Obama has previously said his personal views of gay marriage were evolving, a stance that frustrated gay rights supporters.
The President's revelation isn't a surprise to Valley research experts who feel the country has been quickly changing toward same sex marriage over the past 18 months.
"This is an issue on which opinion is moving rapidly. It's probably the single issue with the most dramatic change and we've reached a tipping point where the velocity of that change is increasing," said, Mike O'Neill with Mike O'Neill and Associates.
O'Neill adds recent numbers show the country is pretty much in a 50/50 split with Arizona right on the line.
"I've looked at the data in all states and Arizona is right in the middle," O'Neill said.
But Jim Campbell with the Alliance Defense Fund doesn't see it that way. For the organization fighting to keep marriage between a man and a woman, President Obama's comment was a big surprise.
"It is really surprising because in the past President Obama has so firmly spoken about how fatherless homes harm children in society, yet today's statement is a contradiction that would create even more fatherless and motherless homes," Campbell said.
Experts say the President's comment could very well push same sex marriage over the barrier of social acceptance.
"When the President of the United States comes out in favor of something that's already moving in a certain direction, it's usually to increase the velocity and this could impact opinion in itself," O'Neill said.
Obama's full interview will air Thursday on Good Morning America, which begins at 7 a.m. right after ABC15 Mornings.
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