President Barack Obama on Saturday
credited his daughters and gay couples he knows for helping him
change his mind on marriage equality.
Obama endorsed equal marriage rights
for gay and lesbian couples in 2012. Previously, he supported civil
unions for gay couples.
At a town hall with young UK leaders in
London, Obama was asked which social movements have influenced him
“[I]n the United States what's been
remarkable is the rapidity with which the marriage equality movement
changed the political landscape and hearts and minds, and resulted in
actual changes in law,” the president answered. “It's probably
been the fastest set of changes in terms of a social movement that
Obama said that he entered the White
House as an ally of the LGBT community.
“But on marriage equality, I was in
favor of what's called civil unions. My notion was initially that
labeling those partnerships as marriage wasn't necessary as long as
people were getting the same rights, and it would disentangle them
from some of the religious connotations that marriage had in the
minds of a lot of Americans,” Obama said.
“I have to confess my children
generally had an impact on me. People I loved who were in monogamous
same-sex relationships explained to me what I should have understood
earlier, which is it was not simply about legal rights but about a
sense of stigma, that if you're calling it something different it
means that somehow it means less in the eyes of society.”
“I believe that the manner in which
the LGBT community described marriage equality as not some radical
thing, but actually reached out to people who said they care about
family values, and said, if you care about everything that families
provide -- stability and commitment and partnership -- then this is
actually a pretty conservative position to take, that you should be
in favor of it. I thought there was a lot of smarts in reaching out
and building and framing the issue in a way that could bring in
people who initially didn't agree with them,” he added.