CAPITOL HILL - Reaction in the U.S. Congress to President Barack Obama's Wednesday announcement that he supports homosexual marriage has been mixed. Several leading Democrats cheered the statement as a historic advancement of civil rights, while several Republican lawmakers said they are concerned with the main issue Americans are focused on, which is jobs.
"Yesterday was quite historic for all us," said Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House of Representatives Minority Leader, strongly praising President Obama's announcement. "America's children and families, workers saw history being made right before their very eyes - the president of the United States advancing civil rights in our country."
Pelosi also responded when asked whether her religion, Roman Catholicism, made same-sex marriage a difficult issue for her.
"My religion compels me - and I love it for it - to be against discrimination of any kind in our country," she said. "And I consider [being against same-sex marriage] a form of discrimination, I think it is unconstitutional on top of that."
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Several other prominent Democrats also welcomed the president's announcement, including Representative Barney Frank, D-Mass., one of four openly gay members of the House.
Frank said that although the president's stand could pose political risks this election year, he does not believe that Obama will lose a single vote over the issue.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., backed the right of states to define marriage, but said that, if his state were to vote on it, he would "follow his grandchildren and children," who he indicated support same-sex marriage.
Congressional Republicans were not as vocal as Democrats on the president's announcement. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, seemed to downplay the issue of gay marriage, saying that Republicans are focused on the economy.
"I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and the president and the Democrats can talk about this all they want," he said. But the fact is the American people are focused on our economy, and they are asking the question, 'Where are the jobs?'"
In court, House Republicans are fighting the Obama administration's decision not to defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
Rep. Pelosi said she believes that Americans eventually will accept same-sex marriage.
"It is a matter of time. It is all about time," she said. "And on these issues, what is inevitable to some of us is inconceivable to others, and what we want to do is to shorten the difference between the inevitable and the inconceivable."
A recent Gallup public opinion survey shows that Americans are evenly split on the issue, with 50 percent of those polled saying they support gay marriage. That is up from 27 percent in 1996 when Gallup first posed the question.