How Sasha And Malia Obama Helped Changed Dad Barack's Views On Same-Sex Marriage

In 2012, then-President Barack Obama weighed in on the national conversation about marriage equality. During an interview with ABC News, Obama noted that he had experienced "an evolution on this issue." While Obama maintained that he had continually supported what he termed "broader equality for the L.G.B.T. community," he now stated unequivocally, "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."

Obama's statement was a major departure from his previous position. In 2008, during the Saddleback Presidential Candidates Forum broadcast on CNN, he said, "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman." He added, "I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions." Obama had made similar comments when running for the U.S. Senate in 2004.

In 2010, the then-president indicated that, while he hadn't changed his mind, it was a topic he was still considering, in light of friends and staff who were in same-sex relationships. In the 2012 interview, Obama indicated that his two daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama, were pivotal in influencing his thinking. As president, Obama prioritized family dinners, and this led to thoughtful conversations on important issues. "Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples," Obama explained to ABC News. "It wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them and, frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective."

Barack Obama respects his daughters' opinions

In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, a move that then-President Barack Obama called "a victory for America" (via NPR). It was a landmark ruling and Obama's response showed how far he had come, all thanks to his daughters.

As a parent, Obama set the stage for his daughters' outspokenness. While they were growing up, he and Michelle Obama emphasized persistence as well as taking responsibility. "What we try to encourage is the sense that it's not somebody else's job, it's your job," the former president said during a speech at Goalkeepers 2017, per CNBC. "That's an ethic that they've embraced." In an interview with InStyle, he described his daughters: "Sasha is, as Malia describes it, completely confident about her own take on the world and is not cowed or intimidated ... If she thinks something's wrong or right, she will say so. And Malia, she is just buoyant."

While the sisters used the dining room table to create social change with regard to same-sex marriage, as adults, Sasha and Malia got involved in fighting injustice independently of their parents when they protested police brutality in 2020. "They didn't need to be encouraged. Their attitude was — we've seen something wrong and we want to fix it, and we think we can fix it," Obama explained to People. He is proud of his daughters' approach. "Seeing them grow up into the intelligent, strong, and compassionate young women they've become has been the greatest joy of my life," he wrote on Instagram.

Obama believes young people are crucial for enacting positive change

In 2016, Barack Obama again credited his daughters Malia and Sasha Obama for transforming his views on same-sex marriage. "I have to confess my children generally had an impact on me," the then-president said during a Town Hall with Young Leaders of the U.K. In addition, he wasn't afraid to elaborate on why his perspective changed. "People I loved who were in monogamous same-sex relationships explained to me what I should have understood earlier, which is it was not simply about legal rights but about a sense of stigma, that if you're calling it something different it means that somehow it means less in the eyes of society."

As a question-and-answer session unfolded, Obama discussed transgender rights and advocated for youth to work to institute change. "You should keep pushing," he urged a participant. "But I think the trend lines are good on this. We're moving in the right direction — and in part, because of a courageous act of young people like yourself. So stick with it."

After his second presidential term ended, Obama continued to encourage young people to get involved on vital issues. "The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can to prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton, and to take their own crack at changing the world," he declared in a 2017 speech at the University of Chicago, per NBC News.