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President Barack Obama: Same-sex marriage should be legal, in his opinion

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In the interview, Obama said, "I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient." He added, "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."

The president had earlier said that his stance on gay marriage was 'evolving.' (Photo: Associated Press)

Now, he said, "it is important for me personally to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married."

Obama said first lady Michelle Obama also was involved in his decision and joins him in supporting gay marriage.

"In the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people," he said.

Acknowledging that his support for same-sex marriage may rankle religious conservatives, Obama said he thinks about his faith in part through the prism of the Golden Rule - treating others the way you would want to be treated.

"That's what we try to impart to our kids and that's what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I'll be as a as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I'll be as president," Obama said.

Romney has not generally raised the issue in his campaign. He said earlier Wednesday that "I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name.

My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not." Public opinion on gay marriage has shifted in recent years, with most polls now finding the public evenly split, rather than opposed.

A Gallup poll released this week found 50 percent of all adults in favor of legal recognition of same-sex marriages, marking the second time that poll has found support for legal gay marriage at 50 percent or higher.

Majorities of Democrats (65 percent) and independents (57 percent) supported such recognition, while most Republicans (74 percent) said same sex marriages should not be legal. Six states - all in the Northeast except Iowa - and the District of Columbia allow same sex marriages. In addition, two other states have laws that are not yet in effect and may be subject to referendums.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley issued this statement on the president's stance on same-sex marriage:

"Today, President Obama affirmed that for a people of many different faiths -- a people who are committed to the principle of religious freedom -- the way forward is always to be found through greater respect for the equal rights and human dignity of all...In Maryland, we agree...Ultimately, we all want the same thing for our children: to live in a loving, stable committed home protected equally under the law."

The Archdiocese of Washington released this statement regarding Obama's support of same-sex marriage:

"The Archdiocese of Washington opposes the redefinition of marriage based on the clear understanding that the complementarity of man and woman is intrinsic to the meaning of marriage. The word 'marriage' describes the exclusive and lifelong union of one man and one woman open to generating and nurturing children. Other unions exist, but they are not marriage."

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