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Obama on gay marriage: from reluctant supporter to cheerleader-in-chief

One year ago Obama had just come out for gay marriage, and now he's a big cheerleader. But in 2011, he took the most important step of his presidency in paving the way for Wednesday's DOMA ruling.

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President Obama, aboard Air Force One, congratulates same-sex marriage plaintiffs following the Supreme Court's decision Wednesday, reaching them on their cell phones as they stood outside the Court.

Pete Souza/Reuters

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It was barely a year ago that President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage – and only after a big, awkward nudge from Vice President Biden. On Wednesday, following victories for same-sex marriage rights in two Supreme Court cases, Mr. Obama was the lead cheerleader, issuing reactions in rapid succession.   

First, in a quick tweet put out under Obama’s name by his group Organizing for Action, he called the decision striking down a key portion of DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act – “a historic step forward for #MarriageEquality.”

Then Obama placed two congratulatory calls from Air Force One, en route to Africa. He spoke to Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in the DOMA case, then to the plaintiffs and others involved in the challenge to Proposition 8 – the 2008 referendum that banned gay marriage in California. The ruling, which dismissed the appeal on jurisdictional grounds, will allow gay marriages to resume in the state.

“He noted that although the court did not address the constitutionality of Proposition 8, today's ruling is a victory for Kris, Sandy, Paul, and Jeff –these are plaintiffs in Prop 8 – and to all loving, committed couples in the state of California,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Air Force One.

And finally, the president put out a formal statement, applauding the DOMA decision.

“This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people,” Obama said. “The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

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