President Barack Obama believes same-sex marriage should be legal, the first American president to say so.
“I’ve been going through an evolution on this issue,” Obama told ABC News Wednesday. “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 had formally opposed same-sex marriage, though in recent years said he was “evolving.”
“I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient,” he said. “I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth.”
He told ABC his views evolved amid conversations with his own staff, openly gay service members and his wife and daughters.
“Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated different,” Obama said. “It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”
Obama said his views are his own personal position and that he still supports the rights of states to make their own laws deciding the issue.
Polling shows Americans are deeply divided over whether same-sex marriage should be legal. A Gallup poll released Tuesday said 50 percent believe it should be recognized, with the same rights as traditional marriages, while 48 percent believe it should not be legal.
The issue became front-and-center news this week after Vice President Joe Biden said he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage.
This post has been updated since it was first published.