BREAKING: Barack Obama became the first sitting president to come out in support of legal same-sex marriage today, a reversal from views expressed during the 2008 campaign, when he said he opposed same-sex marriage but favored civil unions as an alternative.
"I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient," Obama said in an interview with ABC News at the White House. "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."
Now, he said, "it is important for me personally to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married."
The president had found himself under increasing pressure this week to state his position unequivocally after a pair of events that underscored the sensitivity of the issue.
Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview on NBC's Meet The Press Sunday that he is completely comfortable with gays marrying, a pronouncement that instantly raised the profile of the issue.
And yesterday, voters in North Carolina -- a potential battleground in the fall election -- approved an amendment to the state constitution affirming that marriage may only be a union of a man and a woman.
Obama's announcement cheered gay rights groups who have long urged him to support gay marriage. It also opened up a distinct area of disagreement with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who opposes gay marriage.
Ed is planning extended coverage for tonight on The Ed Show at 8pET on msnbc!