President Obama on Tuesday congratulated Hawaii, saying he was “even prouder” of his home state after legislators passed a bill legalizing gay marriage.
“I’ve always been proud to have been born in Hawaii, and today’s vote makes me even prouder,” said Obama in a statement.
Hawaii will be the 15th state to allow same-sex marriage, after the state Senate followed the House and passed legislation on Tuesday. Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie is expected to sign the bill.
“With today’s vote, Hawaii joins a growing number of states that recognize that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters should be treated fairly and equally under the law,” said Obama. “Whenever freedom and equality are affirmed, our country becomes stronger. By giving loving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry if they choose, Hawaii exemplifies the values we hold dear as a nation.”
He added that first lady Michelle Obama joined him in extending their “best wishes” to families who would “now be given the security and respect they deserve.”
Obama is the first sitting president to endorse gay marriage, publicly affirming his support in May 2012 after years of “evolving” on the issue.
His shift came shortly after Vice President Biden endorsed same-sex marriage during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Critics said Biden’s announcement forced Obama to announce his stand ahead of the 2012 election.
Last week, Obama also congratulated Illinois, the state he represented in the Senate, after it approved same-sex marriage.
Supporters of gay marriage have won a number of high profile victories in the last year, capped by the Supreme Court decision that struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act in June. That law defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, denying same-sex couples many federal benefits.
The high court also declined to rule on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. That decision allowed same-sex marriages to resume in the nation’s most populous state.