President Barack Obama became the first U.S. President to formerly endorse gay marriage in an interview with Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America."
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is under fire for attacking a gay student with a group of classmates during his senior year in high school. Romney has apologized for his "hijinks and pranks" in high school, but some gay rights advocates say that's not good enough.
Crediting his wife and daughters, President Obama said his views on gay marriage had evolved after having thought that "civil unions would be sufficient." Here's some of what Obama told ABC's Roberts:
I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, 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 is still leaving the issue to be handled at the state level, but his move forward on the issue has set tongues wagging, garnering international attention. Conservatives have blasted the President's newly-stated support of gay marriage, but Obama's re-election campaign is reportedly seeing a significant increase in donations following his announcement.
“Here I thought the LGBT community was already knocking it out of the ballpark for Obama, and now I see they’ve expanded the ballpark,” Andrew Tobias, treasurer of the Democratic National Committee and gay rights advocate, told the Washington Post. “And many of my straight donors are energized as well. People are excited up and down the line.”
Just as Obama made his historic announcement in support of gay marriage, Romney has come under fire for his role in a 1965 attack on a gay student at his high school. Romney reportedly led a group of friends to attack a fellow student who was quiet and regularly teased for being different than the norm. The student was also a rumored homosexual. Romney and his gang attacked the young man, with the bullies holding the student down as he cried for help while Romney cut his hair off with scissors. Romney reportedly didn't like the student's newly-dyed blonde hair. The story also detailed other incidents in which Romney said "Atta Girl" to a fellow gay classmate and held a door closed on a vision-impaired teacher. The Washington Post, which broke the story, decided to keep the it out of today's print version due to the news of Obama's endorsement of gay marriage, deciding only to publish the story online.
Romney indirectly apologized for the incident this morning during a FOX News radio interview, "I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks in high school and some of them might have gone too far, and I apologize." Romney did not however, speak about the specific incidents outlined in the Washington Post story.
Gay rights advocates say Romney's apology doesn't go far enough.
"This is deeply troubling behavior on the part of an individual in Governor Mitt Romney's position. Romney's so-called apology for his past actions sheds new light on his disturbing track record on bullying and suicide prevention while Governor of Massachusetts," the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard said. "Far from being 'hijinks' or a 'prank,' Romney's behavior toward his high school classmate amounted to harassment and assault. And GLSEN remembers all too well Romney's troubling record while he was Governor of Massachusetts on programs designed to protect LGBT youth and prevent youth suicide. Nearly one in five lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students will be assaulted at school this year. What would Mr. Romney propose to do as President to address this horrifying reality?"
In 2006, while governor of Massachusetts, Romney tried to have the then 14-year old LGBT Youth Commission, which was created by executive order by Republican Gov. William Weld, eliminated due to his unhappiness with being listed on one of their press releases promoting a gay pride parade. He then changed gears and decided to instead try to put a tight leash on how the group spent its $1.2 million budget. Because of these actions and his history of bullying, GLSEN officials are calling on Romney to lay out his approach to handling gay rights issues and the bullying of homosexual students.
"It is critical that Mr. Romney make clear how he would approach these issues as President," Dr. Byard said. "Would he again seek to end important measures initiated by a previous administration, as he did in MA? Would he support the efforts of Congress to address these issues through endorsement of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and Student Non-Discrimination Act?"