This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.
This week, President Obama said he now supports same-sex marriage.
BARACK OBAMA: "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
He became the first sitting American president to express that opinion. Earlier he had said his thinking on the issue was "evolving."
Reaction in Congress was mixed. Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the minority Democrats in the House of Representatives, welcomed the news.
NANCY PELOSI: "America's children and families and workers saw history being made right before their very eyes: the president of the United States advancing civil rights in our country."
But Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans in the House said the president was sending the wrong message at the wrong time.
JOHN BOEHNER: "I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. And the president, the Democrats can talk about all this all they want. But, the fact is, the American people are focused on our economy, and they are asking the question: where are the jobs?"
House Republicans are leading a court case against the administration for not defending a federal law called the Defense of Marriage Act. That nineteen ninety-six law defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
In the Senate, Republicans did not say much about the president's announcement. Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would support same-sex marriage if the issue were put to voters in his home state of Nevada.
Mr. Obama received strong support from politically influential gays and lesbians in the two thousand eight campaign. His re-election campaign says donations from both groups have greatly increased since his announcement.
Mitt Romney, the likely Republican presidential candidate, opposes same-sex marriage.
MITT ROMNEY: "My view is that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman, and that is the position I have had for some time and I don't intend to make any adjustments at this point."
Support for same-sex marriage has grown in recent years, especially among younger people. A recent Gallup public opinion survey suggested that Americans are now evenly split on the issue. Gallup first asked the question in nineteen ninety-six. That year only twenty-seven percent of people said they supported same-sex marriage.
The president's position on the issue gained new attention after a TV appearance Sunday by Vice President Joe Biden. He was on NBC's "Meet the Press" program.
JOE BIDEN: "I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties."
President Obama announced the change in his thinking on ABC News on Wednesday.
BARACK OBAMA: "At a certain point, I 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."
He noted his success at ending the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and his opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act.
But Mr. Obama said he still supports the right of individual states to decide the marriage issue. He spoke a day after a large majority of voters in North Carolina approved a state constitutional ban on homosexual marriage. North Carolina became the thirtieth state to pass such an amendment. The ban also includes civil unions and domestic partnerships.
Currently, six of the fifty states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry. Nine states allow civil unions or provide rights under domestic partnership laws.
And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.
Contributing: Michael Bowman, Marissa Melton, Dan Robinson and Cindy Saine