Obama Wades Into Washington State Marriage Debate

May 10, 2012 7:59pm

SEATTLE, Wash. —  One day after publicly coming out in favor of same-sex marriages, President Obama waded into Washington State’s debate over the unions, telling supporters at a Seattle fundraiser to vote against an expected November referendum that would overturn a new same-sex marriage law.

“Here in Washington you’ll have the chance to make your voice heard on the issue of making sure that everybody, regardless of sexual orientation, is treated fairly. You will have a chance to weigh in on this,” Obama said inside Seattle’s Paramount Theater. “We are a nation that treats people fairly. We’re not going backwards, we’re not going backwards, we’re going forwards.”

The comments were Obama’s first on marriage since his interview with ABC News on Wednesday, when he announced a reversal of his longstanding opposition to same-sex nuptials. He said “winds of change” sweeping the country, as well as conversations with his staff, openly gay and lesbian service members, and his wife and daughters, helped change his view.

They also followed the approval Tuesday of a constitutional ban on same-sex unions in North Carolina — a move Obama opposed, but never publicly addressed.

As he took the stage, Obama received sustained applause from the friendly Democratic crowd of 2,000 donors, who each paid at least $1,000 to attend. The crowd seized on each reference he made to gay rights, breaking into whoops and cheers.

“If you are willing to work hard you should be able to find a good job. If you’re meeting your responsibilities, you should be able to own a home, maybe start a business. You should be able to give your kids the chance to do even better than you, no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, no matter your last name, no matter who you love,” he said, drawing enthusiastic applause.

Later, Obama referred to his efforts to repeal the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, which banned openly gay service members, saying, “We’re not turning back the clock. We’re not returning to the days when you could be kicked out of the United States military just because of who you are and who you love. We’re moving this country forward. We are moving forward, to a country where every American is treated with dignity and with respect.”

Obama did not directly refer to his opponent, Mitt Romney, when discussing gay rights, but suggested that he is the only candidate for president who would be an advocate for Americans of all backgrounds, including sexual orientation.

“This country is at its best when we harness the God-given talents of every individual. When we hear every voice. When we come together as one American family — black, white, Hispanic, Asian, native American, gay, straight, disabled. Everybody striving for the same dream. That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s why I ran for president. That’s why I’m running again for president,” Obama said.

Washington State legalized same-sex marriages in February, becoming the seventh state in the nation to do so. But opponents are expected to collect more than 120,000 signatures to put a veto measure directly to voters in November.

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