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May 9, 2012 at 10:10 PM
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Obama says he supports same-sex marriage

WASHINGTON, May 9 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama says he has reversed his opposition to same-sex marriage and while he supports the concept, thinks states should make their own decisions.

In an interview Wednesday with ABC News, Obama said his thoughts about gay marriage evolved during conversations with his friends and family.

"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that don't-ask-don't-tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," Obama said.

The interview is scheduled to air Thursday on "Good Morning America," ABC News said.

The president had previously voiced support for civil unions for gay and lesbian couples but had opposed defining it as "marriage."

Republican Mitt Romney, Obama's likely opponent in the November general election, declined to comment on the president's endorsement of gay marriage, The Hill reported.

Romney, however, reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage during an interview with KDVR-TV, Denver, as a bill that would have allowed civil unions for same-sex couples died in the Colorado Legislature Tuesday night.

"Well, when these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts, I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name," Romney told KDVR.

"My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not."

Obama said during his 2008 campaign for president he backed civil unions but not marriage for gay couples and has since said his position on the issue was "evolving."

Putin to miss G8 summit

WASHINGTON, May 9 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday told U.S. President Barack Obama he will not attend a Group of Eight summit at Camp David, Md., the White House said.

In a telephone call with Obama, Putin expressed regret he will be unable to attend the summit May 18-19 because of "his responsibilities to finalize Cabinet appointments in the new Russian government," the White House said in a statement.

"President Obama expressed his understanding of President Putin's decision and welcomed the participation of Russian Prime Minister [Dmitry] Medvedev at the G8 Summit," the statement said.

During the telephone call, Obama and Putin "commemorated the occasion of Russia's celebration of Victory in Europe day, noting the historic war-time alliance between our two countries and underscoring their mutual commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Russian partnership," the White House said.

The two leaders "noted with satisfaction the concrete achievements of the last three years and expressed their commitment to enhance bilateral cooperation on the basis of mutual strategic interests."

Obama and Putin agreed to hold a bilateral meeting in June, when they will be in Los Cabos, Mexico, for the G20 Summit.

"The two presidents reiterated their interest in the sustained high-level dialogue that has characterized the re-set of relations, and the substantial progress of the last three years on issues like nuclear security and non-proliferation, Afghanistan, the [World Trade Organization], and increased trade and commercial ties," the White House said.

Afghan and coalition forces on track

WASHINGTON, May 9 (UPI) -- Afghan armed forces are gaining in size and, along with coalition forces, have reversed terrorist momentum in Afghanistan, a coalition commander said Wednesday.

British Royal Army Lt. Gen. Adrian J. Bradshaw, deputy commander of the International Security Assistance Force, said the Afghan campaign is "in a good place right now."

"Across the theater, [we've seen] Afghan national security forces increasing in strength, capability and confidence," Bradshaw said. "ISAF troops [are] more and more ... providing advice and assistance, but letting the Afghans get to grips with the major combat operations. They have surprised us, and I think they've surprised themselves, with how well they've performed in a whole range of different sorts of operations across the theater."

Bradshaw said an agreement signed between U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week has boosted Afghan confidence the coalition will provide support of security efforts beyond 2014, a release from the Defense Department reported.

"It sets a very good baseline for the Chicago conference, where we hope and expect that nations will come forward and commit funding to the Afghan forces for beyond 2014," Bradshaw said. "And so it's a major achievement."

Rural post offices to stay open

WASHINGTON, May 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday it hopes to keep thousands of rural post offices open while saving money by cutting hours.

The agency had planned to begin shutdowns next week. Officials said as many as 3,700 post offices could be on the chopping block.

The announcement spurred an outcry in thinly populated areas from postal customers and officials, The Wall Street Journal reported. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that in many rural areas residents say the post office is a valuable meeting place where community items are posted on the bulletin board.

"We've listened to our customers in rural America, and we've heard them loud and clear -- they want to keep their post office open," Donahoe said.

Donahoe said the service plans to consult residents in about 13,000 communities to determine the best option. These could include keeping the post office open as few as 2 hours a day, contracting with local businesses like gas stations to provide postal services and merging post offices.

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