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Obama Believes in Same-Sex Marriage

May 10th, 2012

President Barack Obama announced on national television yesterday that he supports every adult’s right to same-sex marriage — that a woman should be allowed to marry a woman and a man should be allowed to marry a man.

This is the first time in history that a sitting president has ever officially expressed such support. According to The New York Times , President Obama took a stand “on what may be the great civil rights struggle of our time.”

It is considered a matter of basic civil or citizens’ rights because in much of the country, couples of the same gender are not treated equally, either under the law or in the way society and culture thinks about them — both important considerations.

President Obama said his decision had a lot to do with his children, Sasha and Malia: ” They’ve got friends whose parents are same-sex couples … There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table. And we’ve been talking about their friends and their parents. And … it wouldn’t dawn on [Malia and Sasha] that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them. And, frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change of perspective. You know, not wanting to somehow explain to your child why somebody should be treated differently when it comes to the eyes of the law.”

The topic of same-sex marriage has been controversial in the United States for many years. It is an issue that many people and families feel very strongly about, one way or the other, and often because of religious views. President Obama had been unsure of his own position for many years and said his views had been “evolving”. You can click here to see his interview with ABC News .

Although a lot people are talking about President Obama’s announcement yesterday, it doesn’t change any laws for the time being. There is a federal law called the the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. But, historically, the decision of whether same-sex couples are allowed to marry is something decided by each individual state. Six states, such as New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and the nation’s capital have legalized the right of same-sex couples to marry. Other state legislatures, such as Maryland and Washington, have passed similar laws that have yet to take effect.

A few states, like California, have gone back and forth. Other states permit “civil unions” and “domestic partnerships”. These recognize committed same-sex relationships but get complicated.

Thirty one states have constitutional amendments (made changes to the law) that make this kind of marriage against the law. You can see a current map here .

There is a legal difference between a “marriage” and a “civil union”. For example, couples in a civil union may not be allowed to visit their loved one in the hospital or make a medical decision to help save their life. And a same-sex couple who is “married” in one state may not be considered married in another. These are just a few examples of why this is an important and complicated subject for the country.

There is also more to it than just legal rights. The word “marriage” has strong meaning to most people. Those who oppose same-sex marriages believe that marriage is an “institution” — a long-standing, important, and sacred tradition and that it should only be between a man and a woman. Some people, however, think it’s fine for a same-sex couple to be together as long as they don’t get to use the word “married”. Same-sex couples who want to get married feel just as strongly about the importance of marriage and their right to have what all married couples enjoy. So there is a range of strong opinions.

Many people have noted that President Obama clarified his view while he’s running for re-election. When a candidate — especially one trying to represent all Americans — takes a clear stand on an issue that generally divides people, it can help win … and lose … votes.

President Obama already has the support of many of the groups who support same-sex marriages. While the president had opposed same-sex marriage when he ran for president in 2008, he did believe in civil unions and worked toward giving same-sex couples many of the same rights as couples in traditional marriages. So, what impact this will have on his re-election remains to be seen, but The New York Times  reported today that seven of nine states that are expected to be close in the presidential election are against same-sex marriage.

That may work to the advantage of Mitt Romney, who is expected to be President Obama’s challenger from the Republican Party. Mr. Romney does not support same-sex marriage or civil unions (that convey the same legal rights as a marriage would). And just two days ago, a majority of voters of the state of North Carolina voted to ban all same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships.

Citizens make their choice for president for many reasons and this may or may not be important to many voters. Either way, the economy — trying to make sure people have enough jobs and money — will likely remain the biggest election issue.

Some legal experts believe that because of the many legal differences among states, the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately make a ruling for the whole country in the future. The Supreme Court already ruled once, in a landmark case in 1967, that “marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man.”

No matter which side of this issue people are on, or what their politics are, we can generally agree with what President Obama said about sharing the “underlying values that we care so deeply about when we describe family, commitment, responsibility, looking after one another, and … teaching our kids to be responsible citizens.” But for now, opinions on how to achieve that will vary and the definition of marriage and family will continue to be a hot topic of news and political discussion across this diverse country.

HTE World and Politics Editor Lukas Haynes contributed to this report.

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11 Comments on “Obama Believes in Same-Sex Marriage”

  • BOB says:

    No! I believe that what Obama said is wrong!!!!

    • Jason says:

      Bob, you must not be a kid. Ask any kid how they feel about same sex marriage, and they will tell you they don’t care. That is because they haven’t been taught bigotry and hatred of other people yet.

  • Jennifer says:

    I know I will be in the minority here, but I find this “news” to be inappropriate for kids. My 8 year old uses this website for class news…but now I’m not so sure. This is not content I’m comfortable with him reading and addressing. There are lots of other news stories out there. This is NOT one that should be included on a kids news sight. Maybe that makes me too protective, but that’s my job as a parent-to protect my children from the things they cannot protect themselves from. I am saddened that this is not a sight I can trust for hiim to look at alone anymore.

    • Claudia says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      Thank you for your comment. I really appreciate that you took the time to voice your concern and open a respectful dialogue.
      I too have an 8-year old and understand where you are coming from in that regard. What to cover, and what not to, is not always an easy choice.
      In the end, we made the decision to cover President Obama’s announcement because it was a monumental and historic decision made by a sitting president in what some would say is one of the biggest remaining civil rights issues in recent times.

      We also believe that stories originating from the White House from an incumbent president during an election year are more likely to naturally find their way into classroom and home discussions, as well as discussions among children. Our aim was to help clarify and contextualize the discussions that, in this case, may already be taking place.

      It is also a story that remains consistent with HTE’s mission to cover some of the more substantive issues out there to help children navigate their world.
      Because of the sensitive and also divisive nature of the subject matter, we took even more care than usual to ensure that we chose our words carefully, evenly, and fairly. 

      I am not sure if you follow HTE on Facebook but prior to posting this story, we polled HTE followers (Facebook followers are 13+ so mostly parents of children who read it) whether they would like to see us cover this story — specifically while keeping in mind that it is aimed at elementary school students. Every answer came back yes. That also helped us make our decision.
      That being said, Jennifer, I truly appreciate your position, especially because we all do our best to find where our own line is about how much of the world to share with our children and when. 

      Should you and your child choose to continue reading  HTE, I would look forward to your feedback on future stories as well.
      Claudia Heitler

  • Chris says:

    I had already discussed this with my 9-year old and look forward to letting her read about it. Thank you!

  • Bob says:

    Well I dont care, Obama never should have said that that is so
    inaproprite aspecially putting it on HTE!!!! that is so gross and should not be. I cant wait till Mitt Romney becomes the new president!!! GO MITT ROMNEY!!! He is AWESOME and is a good person because he is Morman!!!! GO MORMAN’S!!!!!!!!!

  • Mj says:

    Bravo to President Obama for standing up for all families! And bravo to your well written article! Many children have friends in school with same sex parents and yawn about this issue. Unlike adults, they don’t think about what anyone’s parents do in bed. Thanks for being accepting of difference! My hope is that the 10 % of children using this website who will ultimately identify as gay or lesbian, will consider it a non issue. Imagine a world for our children that is filled less hatred, bullying, and suicides, due to acceptance.

    Outside of my approval of the site handling of the social issue, I believe that it was well handled as an historical issue. Thank you! Mom of an 8 year old boy.

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