In an interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts, President Barack Obama expressed his support for gay marriage.
In the exclusive interview he said, "I have always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally."
He admits he first "hesitated" on gay marriage because he thought civil unions would be adequate. He concluded, though that "for me personally, it is important to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married."
He became the first U.S. president to back same-sex marriage. In his 2008 campaign for the presidency, he stated that he opposed same-sex marriage but favored civil unions.
"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," he told ABC.
President Obama faced a lot of pressure to state his views on the issue after the media frenzy that occurred when Vice President Joe Biden declared his "comfort" with marriage equality.
His announcement also comes the day after voters in North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages as well as civil unions for gay couples.
Obama's presidential rival, Mitt Romney, re-stated his opposition to both same-sex marriage and civil unions today to KDVR-TV in Denver.
"Well, when these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts, I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than my name. My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights and the like are appropriate but that the others are not."
Can't watch President Obama's statement supporting gay marriage? Read the full transcript here