by Philip Yabut in ,

At around 3:00 pm on May 9, 2012, Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to openly endorse same-sex marriage.  The president made his views known in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News after days of pressure from LGBT groups following similar public pronouncements from Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan over the weekend.  A day earlier, North Carolina voters endorsed a state constitutional amendment banning gay unions, making it a busy time for the same-sex marriage debate.

Arguably, the president's declaration of support for gay marriage after famously saying his views were "evolving" back in 2010 will have the biggest impact in the debate.  With North Carolina's vote, 31 states now have laws banning same-sex marriage.  Only six states and DC have legalized gay marriage, while five others have civil union statutes in force.  Maine, New Jersey, Maryland and Minnesota will vote on legalizing same-sex marriage later this year.  Obama's announcement has been hailed by LGBT groups and denounced by heterosexual marriage proponents, which should galvanize both sides as the battle rages on.

It's worth noting that a weekend Gallup poll found 50 percent support of gay marriage nationwide, a dramatic shift from just a few years ago when it was not politically expedient to come out in favor of it.  The trend line is clear -- gay marriage is making steady progress in public support.  As with other civil rights struggles in our history, the law generally lags behind public opinion.   But eventually it catches up, and now it may be possible foresee a future where gay Americans can enjoy the same right to marry the people they love just like everyone else.

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