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President Barack Obama announces his support for same-sex marriage

By Emily Suh

May 10, 2012 1:16 a.m.

President Barack Obama made public on Wednesday a new stance that same-sex marriage should be legal ““ a move that has an important symbolic effect, UCLA legal professors say, but will not significantly change lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender legislation or the presidential election.

The announcement was made during an interview with ABC News following similar statements by members of the Obama administration. This past week, Vice President Joe Biden publicized his support of same-sex marriage, as did Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Obama is the first president to support same-sex marriage in office. He said his views evolved on an issue he had long struggled with.

“I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word “˜marriage’ was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth,” Obama said during the interview.

The announcement comes at a time when proponents of Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, are planning to file another appeal to reverse the most recent court ruling that determined the legislation unconstitutional. In February, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a previous federal court decision declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional, but the legislation has not yet been reversed.

Although no moves have yet been made, proponents of Proposition 8 can appeal the decision to a higher court.

Nancy Polikoff, a UCLA law professor and faculty chair of the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, which conducts research on gender identity and sexual orientation issues, said that while the president’s endorsement is symbolically powerful, his new stance will not affect current same-sex marriage legislations.

The Obama administration has already exercised its power to support same-sex marriage to its full extent, Polikoff said.

In 2011, the Obama administration announced its position that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the legal union of a man and a woman, is unconstitutional.

Efforts to repeal the act are underway in Congress, but beyond taking a stance against the legislation, the president does not have control over the repeal process, and a repeal is unlikely to occur until Democrats can regain control of the House of Representatives, Polikoff said.

“Obama has already done what he could do in this area (of same-sex marriage) for federal and law purposes,” Polikoff said.

In addition, the president does not have the power to force states into allowing same-sex marriage, said law Professor Gary Gates.

The announcement comes at a time when four states, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, are planning to vote on legalizing or banning same-sex marriage in the November election.

“(The announcement) confirms what people have suspected ““ that he has been the most supportive of the presidents on this issue,” Gates said.

Gates said he does not think Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage will significantly affect the outcome of the presidential election.

“What stops swing voters (from voting against Obama) is that they either support marriage equality or are indifferent to the issue,” Gates said.

But Sally Lee, a fourth-year biology student who does not support same-sex marriage, said that the president’s move will factor into her vote in the November election, although she is currently undecided.

Lee Jasperse, a third-year English and psychology student, said he thinks the announcement will positively support UCLA student voter turnout in the upcoming election.

“A lot of LGBT voters and allies on campus will probably be mobilized to vote for Obama,” Jasperse said.

With contributing reports from Naheed Rajwani, Golmah Zarinkhou and Olivia Hitchcock, Bruin senior staff.

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