President Obama has committed himself to the goal that Americans will one day recognise same-sex relationships as “just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman”.
Mr Obama’s “unprecedented” remarks were hailed by his audience at a dinner for a high-profile ‘gay rights’ group in Washington DC on Saturday.
Joe Salmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign which organised the event, said: “This was a historic night when we felt the full embrace and commitment of the President of the United States.
“It’s simply unprecedented.”
During his speech Mr Obama criticised defenders of traditional marriage, saying they “hold fast to outworn arguments and old attitudes”.
And he likened the campaign for ‘gay rights’ in America to African Americans’ struggle for civil rights in the 1960s.
Outlining his policy agenda, Mr Obama said: “I support ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country.
“I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples.”
He added that he wants to see the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman and protects any state from being forced to recognise a same-sex marriage legal in another state.
The law was passed by huge majorities in both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
After assuring his audience of his “unwavering” commitment to their cause, Mr Obama explained “the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach”.
He said: “My expectation is that when you look back on these years, you will see a time in which we put a stop to discrimination against gays and lesbians – whether in the office or on the battlefield.
“You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman.”
American groups campaigning to defend marriage and family values have expressed their concern at Mr Obama’s remarks, as well as anger at his critical references to them.
In his speech Mr Obama attacked “those who would enshrine discrimination into our Constitution”.
And he urged his audience to continue their campaign against “fellow citizens” who “hold fast to outworn arguments and old attitudes; who fail to see your families like their families; who would deny you the rights most Americans take for granted”.
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, said: “One thing was clear from Obama’s speech – his goal (like that of homosexual activists) is not simply equal legal rights.
“It is, rather, to overturn millennia of moral teaching that has acknowledged the harms of homosexual conduct and the unique benefits of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Christian columnist and commentator Dr Albert Mohler said: “It is virtually impossible to imagine a promise more breathtaking in its revolutionary character than this – to normalize same-sex relationships to the extent that they are recognized as being as admirable as heterosexual marriage.”