By Susan Walsh, AP
President Obama discusses the Buffett rule during a meeting Wednesday at the White House.
By David Jackson, USA TODAY
President Obama became the first U.S. president to endorse gay marriage, telling ABC News today that it "should be legal."
"I think same sex couples should be able to get married," Obama told ABC's Good Morning America.
Obama also said this is a personal view, and that states should set their own marriage laws. The Good Morning America interview also comes a day after voters North Carolina approved a ban on gay marriage.
His comments also came within a few days of pro-gay marriage statements by Vice President Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, increasing pressure on Obama from gay rights supporters.
ABC News broke into regular programming to deliver the news.
Once an opponent of gay marriage, Obama said his views have "evolved" because of the "incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships" he has seen among friends and staff.
Obama said his views also changed as he worked to end the military ban on gays, the former policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"At a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married," Obama said.
ABC News, meanwhile, prepared a handy "timeline" of Obama statements on gay marriage:
FEBRUARY 1996: "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages," reads a typed, signed statement from then-Illinois state senate candidate Obama in response to a questionnaire by the Chicago LGBT newspaper "Outlines." White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer later publicly disavowed the statement, claiming in June 2011 that the questionnaire was "actually filled out by someone else."
OCTOBER 2004: " What I believe is that marriage is between a man and a woman ... What I believe, in my faith, is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God, and it's not simply the two persons who are meeting," then-U.S. Senate candidate Obama said in an interview with WTTW Chicago public television.
"That doesn't mean that that necessarily translates into a position on public policy or with respect to civil unions. What it does mean is that we have a set of traditions in place that, I think, need to be preserved, but I also think we need to make sure that gays and lesbians have the same set of basic rights that are in place.
"I don't think marriage is a civil right," Obama said when asked whether there's an inherent right to marry.
OCTOBER 2010: "I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage," President Obama said during an interview with liberal bloggers. "But I also think you're right that attitudes evolve, including mine. And I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships."
DECEMBER 2010: "My feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. At this point, what I've said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have," Obama said in response to a question from ABC's Jake Tapper at a White House press conference.
"I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I think is something that we're going to continue to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward," he said.
JUNE 2011: "The president has never favored same-sex marriage. He is against it. The country is evolving on this, and he is evolving on it," Pfeiffer told progressive activists at the Net Roots Nation conference.
JUNE 2011: "I think it's important for us to work through these issues because each community is going to be different, each state is going to be different," Obama said when asked during a White House press conference about New York becoming the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage.
"I think what you're seeing is a profound recognition on the part of the American people that gays and lesbians and transgender persons are our brothers, our sisters, our children, our cousins, our friends, our co-workers, and that they've got to be treated like every other American," he said. "And I think that principle will win out. It's not going to be perfectly smooth, and it turns out that the President -- I've discovered since I've been in this office -- can't dictate precisely how this process moves."
OCTOBER 2011: "I'm still working on it," Obama said when asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos whether he would move from supporting civil unions for same-sex couples to supporting gay marriage.
"I probably won't make news right now, George. But I think that there's no doubt that as I see friends, families children of gay couples who are thriving, you know, that has an impact on how I think about these issues."
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