Obama supports gay marriage
US President Barack Obama has announced that he supports gay marriage.
The announcement boosted the hopes of gay rights groups around the world that other leaders will follow his example, though opponents denounced his switch as a shameless appeal for votes.
Gay-rights groups hoped Obama's views would inspire more change.
"This is incredibly important, it's excellent news," said Julio Moreira, president of the Rio de Janeiro-based Arco-Iris gay rights group.
Vatican and other religious officials didn't comment, but political leaders and others opposed to gay marriage excoriated 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."
Religion-based opposition is strong in Egypt's conservative Muslim-dominated society, which rejects same-sex relations. Laws prohibiting "debauchery" or "shameless public acts" have been used to imprison gay men in recent years.
"This is unacceptable because it is against religion, traditions and against God," said engineer Shady Azer in Cairo.
"God created Adam and Eve. He didn't create two Adams or two Eves."
Gay marriage is legal in several countries, mostly in Europe but others include Canada and South Africa. Several US states allow it.
In 2010, Argentina became Latin America's first country to approve gay marriage. - AP
Published May 10, 2012