Barack Obama makes up his mind on gay marriage

Strangely enough, Mr Obama reached his decision within days of Joe Biden, the vice-president, saying that for his own pa... Strangely enough, Mr Obama reached his decision within days of Joe Biden, the vice-president, saying that for his own part he was _absolutely comfortable_ with same-sex marriages. One day after Mr Biden, Arne Duncan, Mr Obama_s education secretary, said that he too thought same-sex marriages should be legal. The sequence of events creates the impression that by accident or design the president was in the end shamed into speaking his mind.

Whatever his motive, Mr Obama_s conversion is a step forward for gay rights. The president had already stopped enforcing, but not yet repealed, the federal Defence of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. He had repealed the _don_t ask, don_t tell_ law which barred homosexuals from serving openly in the armed services. But he had hesitated on gay marriage _in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient,_ Mr Obama told ABC. He had been _sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that invokes very powerful traditions [and] religious beliefs._

At the state level, meanwhile, the cause of both gay marriage and civil unions had a bad week. North Carolina (where the Democrats will hold their convention this summer) voted overwhelmingly in favour of a constitutional amendment to make marriage between one man and one woman the only legal union the state will recognise. And in Colorado a measure to legalise civil unions in a state that made gay marriage illegal in 2006 was prevented from coming to a vote in the state legislature.

Advocates had expected that Colorado would become the first state that has banned gay marriage to pass a bill allowing civil unions, which grant certain legal rights to same-sex couples. But in a dramatic turn on May 8th a state Senate-approved bill to that effect died without a full vote in the Colorado House of Representatives, which holds a slim 33-22 Republican majority. This was after Frank McNulty, the Republican Speaker, delayed bringing the bill to the floor in time to beat a midnight deadline.

Republicans in Colorado may come to regret the 11th-hour stratagem. In America as a whole, says Gallup, 50% of people support same-sex marriage. And according to local polls, civil unions strike a majority of Coloradans as an acceptable compromise. Maybe the views of its legislature just need time to _evolve_.


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