From the time he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois, Barack Obama has opposed the Defense of Marriage Act but maintained that he believes marriage was meant to be between a man and a woman.
• February 11, 2004: As a Senate candidate, Obama wrote in a Windy City Times letter to the editor that he found the Defense Against Marriage Act to be "abhorrent."
"It should be repealed and I will vote for its repeal on the Senate floor. I will also oppose any proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gays and lesbians from marrying. This is an effort to demonize people for political advantage, and should be resisted ," wrote Obama.
• June, 5, 2006: On the Senate floor, Obama said he believed that marriage was between a man and a woman but that legislation prohibiting gay marriage was a political wedge.
"This is not what the majority of the American people want. And this is not about trying to build consensus in this country; it's not about trying to bring people together," he said.
• July 1, 2008: Obama said through a spokeswoman, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report, that he supports civil unions.
"Senator Obama supports civil unions, and he has consistently opposed federal and state constitutional marriage amendments because as we have seen in some states, enshrining a definition of marriage into the constitution can allow states to roll back the civil rights and benefits that are provided in domestic partnerships and civil unions," the spokeswoman said.
• Oct. 10, 2009: At a Human Rights Campaign dinner in Washington, Obama said he opposed the 1996 act.
"And I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act," he said.
• Oct. 27, 2010: In the Roosevelt Room during a roundtable interview with liberal bloggers, Obama said he was not prepared to reverse himself on his opposition to gay marriage. But he reiterated that he supported civil unions.
"I am a strong supporter of civil unions. ... I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage," the president said.
• Dec. 22, 2010: During a news conference, Obama came close to suggesting that he would support gay marriage.
"I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about," Obama said.