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Obama's Embrace Of Gay Marriage Thrills Some In Mass., Energizes Others04:04
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David Peters, right, and Luke Whited, a gay couple who were joined in a civil union in their home state of Illinois, show their rings inside the Bourbon Pub, a gay bar. (AP)
David Peters, right, and Luke Whited, a gay couple who were joined in a civil union in their home state of Illinois, show their rings inside the Bourbon Pub, a gay bar. (AP)

President Obama's decision to support gay marriage is getting a mixed reaction in Massachusetts.

The president announced in an interview with ABC News that he now believes that same-sex couples should have the right to marry. He becomes the first sitting U.S. president to support gay 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 said.

Romney's Reaction

The president's likely Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, campaigning in Oklahoma, told reporters that he is not changing his view on gay marriage.

"Marriage itself is a relationship between a man and a woman and that's my own preference."

Mitt Romney

"Marriage itself is a relationship between a man and a woman and that's my own preference," Romney said. "I know other people have differing views. This is a very tender and sensitive topic, as are many social issues."

Romney supports an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban gay marriage. As governor of Massachusetts, he led the fight to overturn a decision by the state's highest court recognizing same-sex marriage.

What Effect Obama's Statement Might Have

Mary Bonauto, an attorney for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, won that historic court battle, and she says she wishes she could say the president's change of position on gay marriage will have a dramatic impact.

"But there won't, because as we know with this issue, even though a majority of Americans now support marriage for same-sex couples, there's still deep opposition out there," Bonauto said.

Some Democrats are energized by the president's change of heart. Rep. Barney Frank said it will make it easier for Democrats to mobilize people who oppose discrimination. But the executive director of the gay Log Cabin Republicans, R. Clarke Cooper, said gay marriage is no longer an issue that necessarily favors Democrats, because conservatives, too, increasingly support recognition of same-sex relationships.

"Be it if you're Chris Christie in New Jersey, who is fully supportive of civil union status, or if you're all the way for support of full marriage status, like the most senior Republican woman in Congress, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen," Cooper said.

Some Massachusetts Republicans Alreadying Embracing Gay Marriage

Perhaps nowhere is the increasing Republican embrace of gay marriage more evident than in Massachusetts. Here, one congressional candidate on the GOP ticket is the former state Sen. Richard Tisei, an openly gay man. He says if he's elected, he wants to be known as a congressman who happens to be gay rather than as the gay Republican congressman.

"One of the things that I'll try to do within the Republican Party is to remind people that the Republican Party was a party that was formed in the first place on the basis that everybody should be treated equally," Tisei said.

Some conservatives are welcoming the challenge posed by the president's change of heart. As executive director of the Massachusetts Family Institute, Kris Mineau fought alongside Romney to reverse the Supreme Judicial Court's landmark decision. He says the president's shift is likely to energize opponents of gay marriage.

"It certainly, among conservatives, burnishes Mr. Romney's credentials," Mineau said. "A very clear distinction now on this issue and really on all of the major social issues, sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage.

"Mr. Obama has put his stake in the ground," Mineau said. "In November, the American people will judge that stake."

This program aired on May 10, 2012.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reports on politics and higher education for WBUR.

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