Thursday May 10, 2012

BOSTON (AP) -- In Mas sachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, reaction to President Barack Obama’s declaration that he supports allowing same-sex couples to wed was largely positive.

"I think it’s absolutely fantastic. I want to say it’s about time," said Al Koski, 69, a retired Social Security claims representative from Bourne who praised Obama but said it took too long for him to come around.

After refusing to take a clear stand for months, Obama announced in an interview with ABC News at the White House on Wednesday that he supports gay marriage. Polling suggests the nation is evenly divided on the issue.

Same-sex couples have been allowed to marry for nearly eight years in Massachusetts, which also happens to be the home state of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He was governor when the Massachusetts Su preme Judicial Court ruled that a ban on gay marriage violated the state constitution. He reiterated Wednesday that he remains opposed to gay marriage.

Democratic Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who is gay, said he understood why Obama took time announcing his support for same-sex marriage. He said the decision is not without political risk but doesn’t believe it will cost Obama any votes, since people inclined to oppose gay marriage were not likely to vote for him anyway. He also said it will mobilize gay marriage supporters to help re-elect him.

"I know there are those who wish that elected officials would completely ignore public opinion -- of course only in those cases where they do not agree with public opinion -- but that is not a realistic course in a democracy for those seeking to get the authority from the public to govern," he said.

A host of other politicians and groups issued statements Wednesday supporting Oba ma’s announcement, including Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, gay GOP 6th congressional district candidate Richard Tisei, and the advocacy groups MassEquality and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.

Condemnation came from Massachusetts Family Insti tute President Kris Mineau, who said Obama had flip-flopped on the issue. The group has opposed gay marriage in Massachusetts.

"It would appear that this is nothing more than an election year change designed to shore up support from one of his core liberal constituencies, and one that has deep pockets," he said.

The Obama administration had found itself in an odd position in Massachusetts because of lawsuits filed by the state and by same-sex couples here challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Last year, Obama announced that the U.S. Department of Justice would no longer defend the constitutionality of the law. After that, House Speaker John Boehner convened the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend it. The Massachusetts lawsuits are currently before a federal appeals court after a judge declared part of the law unconstitutional.