U.S. President Barack Obama came out of the closet with his views on same-sex marriages when he said to a media channel, “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.”

The endorsement seemed to catch the entire nation off-guard, especially as the President’s views on same-sex unions have gone through a lengthy “evolution” during his time in office. While Mr. Obama had said back in 1996, as a U.S. Senator, “I favour legalising same-sex marriages,” in 2004 he had reversed that opinion saying “What I believe is that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Yet in December 2010 he qualified that statement saying, ““My feelings about this are constantly evolving; I struggle with this,” and then last October he once again ducked a straight question on whether he would move from supporting civil unions for same-sex couples to supporting same-sex marriages, noting, “I’m still working on it.”

However this week appeared to mark the culmination of a personal journey exploring his views on same-sex marriages and First Lady Michelle Obama was said to be one of the several factors behind his changing views.

Mr. Obama said to ABC News that his support for same-sex marriages had evolved over the course of several years as he spoke with friends and family and neighbours. In particular, he said, he was moved by the predicament facing members of his staff who were in “incredibly committed, monogamous, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together.”

The President emphasised that Mrs. Obama felt the same way that he did, that the value they cared most deeply about was how they treated other people. Yet he also acknowledged that given that he and Mrs. Obama were practicing Christians their position on this issue “may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others.”

Mr. Obama also struck a personal note and spoke of his daughters’ influence on his thinking, saying, “Malia and Sasha... have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times... sitting around the dinner table and we're talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently.”

His candid remarks on the issue come at an important time during an election year, when the top consideration by voters in November is still likely to be the economy and job-creation. Yet secondary issues such as LGBT rights may make a difference on the margins at least, even if the subject is sometimes a tricky calculus for the President as it may carry a lower proportion of the population.

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