Obama Gay Marriage Stance Draws Mixed Reaction Worldwide

Posted May 10th, 2012 at 11:50 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama's support for gay marriage is being met with a mixed reaction around the world.

In Europe, Germany's openly-gay foreign minister praised the decision.

“I think the declaration of President Obama for the recognition of same-sex marriage is a courageous step. I welcome this not just personally, but also in the name of the German government.”

But at the Vatican Thursday, visiting Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the church's teaching is “very clear” that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“It doesn't mean that the rights of people in their lives can't be protected. But the institution of marriage for the Church is not a social construct which can be changed, it is something that belongs in the fundamental teaching of the Church.”

President Obama announced Wednesday in an interview with ABC News that he now believes same-sex couples should be allowed to get married, opening up a potentially divisive issue as he campaigns for re-election this year. Mr. Obama previously had stopped short of supporting gay marriage, saying his views on the issue were evolving.

Gay rights activists in Asia welcomed the U.S. leader's change in stance. South Korea's first openly gay actor, Hong Suk-chon, said Mr. Obama's support gives hope that the same view could come from a South Korean leader one day.

“There are lots of people who think gay people are weird, are taboo or even believe they are somewhat guilty. They are very scared to show interest or discuss it or even to approach gay people. We are not dangerous people. You can just look at us comfortably like family members, friends or co-workers. However, due to preconceived opinions, it is still very difficult to live as a gay in South Korea.”

Gay rights supporters in Africa also expressed hope that Mr. Obama's announcement will have an influence on their continent, where homosexuals in many countries have faced persecution and violence.

“As a gay person living in Kenya I am very excited by what Obama has said. I think it's very evolutionary, it's very daring, it's very courageous for a national leader, and especially for somebody like Obama to come out to support gay marriages and it shows that society has evolved, that our leaders need to evolve, that this needs to be domesticated here in Africa and in Kenya.”

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in the United States said Mr. Obama has made history by becoming the first sitting president to explicitly support marriage for same-sex couples. The gay rights group, Human Rights Campaign, said that, “in supporting marriage equality, President Obama extends a message of hope to a generation of young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.”

Mr. Obama told ABC this is a personal position and that he arrived at his conclusion over the course of several years after discussing the issue with family and friends.

But the president's presumptive Republican rival, Mitt Romney, told reporters in Oklahoma he believes marriage itself is a relationship between a man and a woman, and that this is his own preference. Romney also said he realizes this is a tender and sensitive topic, as are many social issues. The Family Research Council group issued a statement saying the president's endorsement of same-sex marriage is “disappointing but not surprising.”

The president's announcement comes one day after voters in North Carolina approved a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. The vote changes the state's constitution to say that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized” in the state. North Carolina law already bans homosexual marriage.

On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden said on U.S. television that he is “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage.

A new Gallup public opinion survey shows that 50 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriages should be recognized by law as valid. Last month, the Washington-based Pew Research Center released a survey stating that 47 percent of Americans favored gay marriage, while 43 percent opposed it.

Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, plus the District of Columbia, allow same-sex marriages. The state of Washington also has legalized gay marriage. That law takes effect in June, unless a legal challenge stops it. In March, a measure legalizing same sex-marriage was signed into law in Maryland. The law is scheduled to go into effect next January, but opponents say they will gather signatures to bring the issue to a referendum in November, giving voters a chance to define marriage in Maryland.