Locals applaud President Obama's declaration to support gay marriage

BY JORDYN REILAND | MAY 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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Many Iowans and gay-rights activists say the president's formal endorsement of same-sex marriage opens the door for stronger national support for same-sex couples.

President Obama told ABC News in an interview aired Wednesday that he supports same-sex marriage, a decision that has "evolved" for him over time.

"… 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 during the interview.

Obama is the first United States president to declare his stance on gay marriage while in office.

Iowa Democratic Chairman Sue Dvorsky said she believes the president's statement echoes the majority's feeling in Iowa, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2009.

"At the end of the day this is about equal rights for all, and when we say all, we mean all," she said. "I think that Iowans and the other early states who have taken the stand have a different understanding. And the president has a similar understanding of it."

One openly gay University of Iowa freshman, Sanna Miller, said having the president's support is a positive.

"It's a really progressive … thing that the leader of our country is able to make that declaration and bring us together as people — regardless of our sex," Miller said.

Obama's announcement follows the recent decision by North Carolina legislators to ban gay marriage as an amendment in their state's Constitution Tuesday.

Cary Covington, a UI associate professor of political science, said the president's declaration is unlikely to change things in North Carolina.

"They are going to see this as validation as their reason for writing this into their constitution in the first place," Covington said.

UI Democrats President Katherine Valde said the timing was "perfect" for Democrats, as the announcement followed the southern state's decision.

"A lot of us were heartbroken about it," she said. "And for the president to come out today and make the statement is the perfect culmination of those efforts."

Georgina Dodge, UI chief diversity officer, said she was "very proud" that Iowa is on the forefront of the issue despite the ousting of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled to legalize same-sex marriage.

"Coupled with the fact that the three Iowa justices voted out of office have been given an honor, this indicates that what we are doing here in the state is widely seen throughout the country," she said.

Prior to the president's announcement, Vice President Joe Biden said in a Sunday interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" that committed same-sex partners should have the same rights as any other American.

"I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don't see much of a distinction," Biden told "Meet the Press" host David Gregory.

Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker released a statement in response to Obama's address on gay marriage, saying he didn't agree with the president.

"Marriage is an institution that can only be between one man and one woman. While President Obama continues to play politics, the Republican Party of Iowa will continue to support maintaining the traditional view of marriage as between one man and one woman," he said in a statement.

Nationally, one Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender group said it was thrilled to hear the address and feel hopeful for change.

"I think it sends a very positive and strong message where the leader of our country says he believes in same sex marriage," said Terry Stone, the executive director for CenterLink. "He is setting a tone saying he believes everyone should be treated fairly."

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