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Editorial: Obama's out for same-sex vows

President Barack Obama is seen on television monitors

President Barack Obama is seen on television monitors in the White House briefing room in Washington after he told an ABC News interviewer that he supports gay marriage (May 9, 2012) Credit: AP

President Barack Obama has made an important evolutionary leap marked by his announcement that he now thinks same-sex couples should be able to get married.

Obama emphasized that is his personal view, so his epiphany may not signal any actual action by the White House to push an issue now being decided in individual states but destined to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It's historic, though, that the president of the United States is now unequivocally on the side of marriage equality, which is the right place to be.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney reiterated his position against same-sex marriage and civil unions yesterday, so the contrast between the two on the politically charged issue is now starkly drawn.

Obama's stance could cost him support in key swing states, such as North Carolina, which on Tuesday became the 30th state with a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. But it will energize support and open the wallets of gay voters and others who value equality and have longed for presidential leadership on the issue.

Until now Obama had supported civil unions, which he said he thought would guarantee same-sex couples' rights. But that policy has unfortunate echoes of separate but equal, a legal fiction that justified racial segregation for half a century.

In recent years the ranks of Americans supporting same-sex marriage have grown significantly, but never as dramatically as yesterday.