(Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he believes same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Here are some reactions to his shift on the divisive issue that is likely to play a role in the November 6 presidential election.
REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MITT ROMNEY
"I have the same view on marriage that I had when I was governor and that I have expressed many times. I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.
"States are able to make decisions with regards to domestic partnership benefits, such as hospital visitation rights, benefits and so forth of various kinds could be determined state by state, but my view is that marriage itself is a relationship between a man and a woman and that's my own preference.
"I know other people have differing views. This is a very tender and sensitive topic as are many social issues but I have the same view that I've had since, well, since running for office."
FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE RICK SANTORUM
"The charade is now over, no doubt an attempt to galvanize his core hard left supporters in advance of the November election.
"Thankfully the American public, when it has had an opportunity to consider the real world consequences of such a fundamental change to our society, has consistently voted for maintaining one man one woman marriage - the basic building block of our society.
"I will continue to fight to make sure that the cultural elites don't further undermine the institution that gives the best opportunity for healthy, happy children and a just and prosperous society."
MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY MICHAEL BLOOMBERG
"This is a major turning point in the history of American civil rights. No American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately been adopted by the American people - and I have no doubt that this will be no exception. The march of freedom that has sustained our country since the Revolution of 1776 continues, and no matter what setbacks may occur in a given state, freedom will triumph over fear and equality will prevail over exclusion."
TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT OF CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN GROUP FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL
"Considering that 10 of the 16 battleground states have marriage amendments that could be overturned by the president's new policy position on marriage, today's announcement almost ensures that marriage will again be a major issue in the presidential election.
"The president has provided a clear contrast between him and his challenger Mitt Romney. Romney, who has signed a pledge to support a marriage protection amendment to the U.S. Constitution, may have been handed the key to social conservative support by President Obama.
"It's like Mitt Romney had a jigsaw puzzle with one piece missing and the president just handed it to him today."
LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR R. CLARKE COOPER
"This administration has manipulated LGBT families for political gain as much as anybody, and after his campaign's ridiculous contortions to deny support for marriage equality this week he does not deserve praise for an announcement that comes a day late and a dollar short."
NANCY PELOSI, DEMOCRATIC LEADER OF HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
"Throughout American history, we have worked to live up to our values of liberty and freedom, and to end discrimination in all of its forms. Today, we took another step forward in our march toward equality."
RALPH REED, FOUNDER OF FAITH & FREEDOM COALITION
"This is an unanticipated gift to the Romney campaign. It is certain to fuel a record turnout of voters of faith to the polls this November."
SENATOR PATTY MURRAY, HEAD OF SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE IN TWEET
"Today marks another historic step in ensuring #LGBT Americans are not treated as second-class citizens."
TRADITIONAL VALUES COALITION PRESIDENT ANDREA LAFFERTY
"This isn't exactly a bold move by the president. Forced by Joe Biden's big mouth, Obama had no choice left but to publicly embrace an agenda he has privately promoted for years.
"As if mainstream Americans needed any further reasons to reject Obama's radical social agenda, we were most certainly reminded today."
DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATIVE JARED POLIS, OPENLY GAY MEMBER OF CONGRESS
"President Obama's announcement in support of marriage equality is welcome news for American families. I thank the president for his support for equality and look forward to working with him to strengthen the institution of marriage by securing the right of all Americans to marry the person they love."
THIRD WAY PRESIDENT JON COWAN
"As an organization that both supports allowing gay couples to marry and strives to understand and reach ideological moderates, we believe the center of the electorate is ready to support marriage for gay couples who want to make a public promise of lifetime commitment and fidelity to each other.
"To be sure, this is uncharted territory for the nation's body politic. But taking on such challenges is what leadership is about, and President Obama has once again demonstrated his commitment to lead on the most important issues facing the country."
CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS PRESIDENT NEERA TANDEN
"We applaud the president's decision as it is another large step toward realizing this country's promise of equality. Indeed, President Obama today helped bend the arc of history toward justice. And his stance will be remembered as such."
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA DIRECTOR SUZANNE NOSSEL
"Following in the footsteps of predecessors who brought the nation forward on racial equality, this is a signature example of a president leading the people in a direction that is right and inevitable, even though some may not feel ready for it."
(Reporting by Deborah Charles, Steve Holland, Thomas Ferraro and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Christopher Wilson)