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U.S. President Barack Obama waves to the audience at a gala fundraiser for the gay community in New York City

Pundits in Washington are scrambling to assess the political fallout of US President Obama’s “evolution” on the issue of gay marriage. During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama said he did not support same-sex marriage. Two years later, he told Americans his views were “evolving.” This week, in an exclusive interview on a major US television network, Obama brought his views out of the closet, saying he now supports same-sex marriages.

… 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…because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage…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. US President Barack Obama, Wednesday, May 9, 2012, in an interview with ABC News

Some analysts say this move will likely cost him votes in conservative swing states like North Carolina, where a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage passed Tuesday. Others believe attitudes toward gay marriage are softening in America, pointing to a new poll released this week which shows that Americans have gradually changed their views on same-sex marriage: 50% now say they believe gay marriages should be legally recognized. But it also shows Americans are divided on the issue along political and religious lines. Sixty-five  percent of Democrats support gay marriage, as opposed to only 22 percent of Republicans. Among Catholics, support was at 51 percent, among Protestants 38 percent and among those with no religious identity – 88 percent.

What about America’s Muslims?

Under strict interpretation of Islamic law, sexual relations outside of marriage are forbidden. Sharia defines marriage as a contract between a man and a woman. Thus, homosexuality is considered a crime in many Islamic countries, including Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The California-based Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), however, has applauded the American leader’s statement. It has released a press release, stating:

It is clear that President Obama’s driving concern is for human rights for all and has come to the decision that men and women who desire to marry do have the right to enter marriage with a partner of the same sex. He is a courageous man and a leader with fortitude.

MPV co-founder Pamela K. Taylor received negative comments by mainstream American Muslims for an article she wrote for the Washington Post, advocating a re-interpretation of the Quran to justify gay marriage.

…the Qur’an is a living document, Islam is a living religion, and while there are those who would like to continue interpreting the Qur’an as it was interpreted five hundred years ago, or a thousand years ago, I believe that the Qur’an must continually be understood in light of current information about human nature, race, gender, and class, and with reference to modern understandings of what is just, what is compassionate. Pamela K. Taylor, Quranic Values as an Inspiration for Gay Marriage, in Washington Post, Dec. 14, 2008

Middle East Voices contacted the Islamic Society of North America for its reaction to the issue, but no one was available for comment by press time.

Take a look at some of the reactions trending on social media and add your thoughts using our comments below.


Cecily Hilleary

Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for Dubai-TV English. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf regions, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA and MEV a keen understanding of the region's top social, cultural and political issues.

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