Gays hail Obama marriage stance
Barack Obama's announcement that he supports gay marriage has boosted the hopes of rights groups around the world that other leaders will follow his example.
He said he came to the conclusion over the course of several years of talking to family and friends. But opponents condemned the US president's change of mind as a shameless appeal for votes.
Several countries, including Canada, Spain and Argentina, allow same-sex marriage, but far more countries ban it and dozens even forbid consensual same-sex relations.
Gay rights groups now hope Mr Obama's views will inspire more change. "This is incredibly important, it's excellent news. The United States is a global leader on everything, and that includes gay rights," said Julio Moreira, president of the Rio de Janeiro-based Arco-Iris gay rights group. "This will force other nations like Brazil to move forward with more progressive policies."
Vatican and other religious officials did not comment, but political leaders and others opposed to gay marriage condemned Mr Obama. In particular, politicians tied to Pentecostal and Catholic churches have spoken out strongly against same-sex marriage in Latin America.
"Barack Obama is an ethical man and a philosophically confused man," said Peruvian congresswoman Martha Chavez of the conservative Catholic Opus Dei movement. "He knows that marriage isn't an issue only of traditions or of religious beliefs. Marriage is a natural institution that supports the union of two people of different sexes because it has a procreative function."
In Australia, where three bills that would allow gay marriage have been introduced in parliament, prime minister Julia Gillard said she would not be following Mr Obama's lead. She has consistently opposed gay marriage, though many members of her Labour Party support it.
"I've made my mind up and my position on this is well known," Ms Gillard told reporters in Canberra. "I think it just reinforces this as a matter that people form their own views on, a deeply personal question people will think about, work their way through it; obviously President Obama has and he's announced a decision."
Though Mr Obama's change of heart did not appear to change the battle lines in the debate, those on one side felt they had won a powerful ally.
"We're living in other times where acceptance is growing more and more," said restaurant owner Carlos Santiago in Mexico City's Pink Zone gay district. "It's impossible to hold back a wave, against something that is natural."