Obama told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday, "I always felt that same-sex couples should be able to enjoy the same rights, legally, as anybody else and so it was frustrating to me not to, I think, be able to square that with what were a whole bunch of religious sensitivities out there."
Instead of backing gay marriage, Obama publicly supported civil unions, a position he found uncomfortable, Axelrod wrote:
"Having prided himself on forthrightness, though, Obama never felt comfortable with his compromise and, no doubt, compromised position," Axelrod wrote in the memoir "Believer: My Forty Years in Politics," released Tuesday.
Obama told BuzzFeed he thought civil unions were "a sufficient way of squaring the circle," but that "the pain and the sense of stigma that was being placed on same-sex couples who are friends of mine" changed his mind.
In May 2012, President Obama announced that he did support same-sex marriage after all. Axelrod said the announcement came long after the president reached that conclusion; Axelrod said Obama was "champing at the bit to announce his support."
A year earlier, Obama and the White House began telling the public that Obama's position on same-sex marriage was "evolving," an ambiguous statement that many people saw as a nod to his re-election prospects.
"If Obama's views were 'evolving' publicly, they were fully evolved behind closed doors," Axelrod wrote in his book.
But in his interview on Tuesday with BuzzFeed, Obama said, "I think the notion that somehow I was always in favor of marriage per se isn't quite accurate." (As BuzzFeed noted, however, Obama supported same-sex marriage in a 1996 questionnaire; then opposed it as a U.S. senator and, later, as president, before his "evolving" in 2012.)
Obama told Buzzfeed, “What I’m very proud of is to see how rapidly the country has shifted and maybe the small part that I’ve played, but certainly my Justice Department and others have played, in this administration, in getting to where we need to be.
The president reportedly hailed the Supreme Court's decision on Monday not to block same-sex marriage in Alabama: With a "critical mass of states" now recognizing gay marriage, he said, "it doesn’t make sense for us to now have this patchwork system.”
(The Associated Press contributed some of the information used in this report.)
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