The top two House leaders differed in their response to the president's support of gay marriage, with House Speaker John Boehner maintaining his support for traditional marriage while Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi praised Obama for advancing civil rights.
"I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman," Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters at his weekly news conference. "The president and the Democrats can talk about all this all they want, but the fact is the American people are focused on our economy and they're asking the question, 'Where are the jobs?'"
"We are going to continue to stay focused on what the American people want us to stay focused on," Boehner said. "The American people are concerned about our economy… That's why you've seen us focused, over the last year and a half, on jobs and cutting spending, because our debt and our deficit are like a wet blanket hanging over our economy."
Pelosi, D-Calif., said the news was "quite historic" that "spoke to the values of our families, the values of our faith and the values of our country."
"All of us - America's children and families and workers - saw history being made right before their very eyes, the president of the United States advancing civil rights in our country with his statement," Pelosi said. "It was moving, it was historic, and it was a great day for our country. It honors the ideal of equality, which is the hope and heritage of our country."
Pelosi said it was "hard" to gauge whether Democrats would win or lose votes over it in Republican districts or among Catholics and African-American Evangelicals, but she called the president's decision to go public with his new position "the right thing to do for our country."
"We come here to do a job for the American people, not to hold a job, and I think what he did was to advance the cause of civil rights in such a personal as well as presidential way that it's more important than any political consequences," she said. "This is an issue that I brought with me to the Congress that I care about very much."
Pelosi added that gay marriage is now "a conversation that we can now have more fully because the president of the United States has spoken out on it" and she is hoping Republicans "join the bandwagon."
"What the president did was - whatever the timing and the rest - was an attempt to unify and not divide, and our statement from the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] and from me had nothing to do with money, nothing to do with money," she said. "Anything about the politics is incidental. I don't think that this is political at all."
Pelosi said her Catholicism "compels" her "to be against discrimination of any kind in our country" and "it's a matter of time" before gay marriage is legalized.
"I consider this a form of discrimination. I think it's unconstitutional, on top of that," Pelosi said. "What we want to do is shorten the difference between the inevitable and the inconceivable. And I think the president went a long way in doing that yesterday."