Laura Bush, the wife of former US president George Bush, has announced she supports same-sex marriage and believes abortion should remain legal.

Mrs Bush revealed that she “disagrees” with her Republican husband’s stance on gay marriage and thinks full marriage equality “is coming”.

She was on Larry King’s show to publicise her new autobiography Spoken From the Heart.

In the book, she reveals that in 2004, she urged the president not to make gay marriage an election campaign issue.

She wrote: “Before the election season had unfolded, I had talked to George about not making gay marriage a significant issue. We have, I reminded him, a number of close friends who are gay or whose children are gay. But at that moment I could never have imagined what path this issue would take and where it would lead.”

When asked by King last night whether she supports gay marriage, she said: “There are a lot of people who have trouble coming to terms with that because they see marriage as traditionally between a man and a woman.

“But I also know that, you know, when couples are committed to each other and love each other, that they ought to have, I think, the same sort of rights that everyone has.”

She added she felt abortion should remain legal because “it’s important for people, for medical reasons and other reasons”.

In 2004, Mr Bush endorsed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

His wife has been criticised by some for not speaking out about her opinions sooner, when they could have had more effect.

Michael Cole, a spokesman from the Human Rights Campaign, said: “When the right wing was using same-sex couples as election year pawns and the president calling for a cynical constitutional amendment to deny people rights, we would have welcomed support from the first lady.

“Nevertheless, her speaking out for marriage equality shows that more and more Americans realise all families need the same rights and protections.”

However, conservative Christian group Focus on the Family said her remarks were “disappointing” and “in conflict with the majority of Americans”.

See below for the transcript and a video.

Larry King: Gay marriage, you tell us in the book that during the 2004 campaign you talked to George about not making it a significant issue. Do you think we should have it?

Laura Bush: Well, I think we ought to definitely look at it and debate it. I think there are a lot of people who have trouble coming to terms with that because they see marriage as traditionally between a man and a woman. But I also know that, you know, when couples are committed to each other and love each other, that they ought to have I think the same sort of rights that everyone has.

King: So would that be an area where you disagreed?

Bush: I guess that would be an area that we disagree. I mean, I understand totally what George thinks and what other people think about marriage being between a man and a woman. And it’s a real, you know, reversal really for that to accept gay marriage.

King: But you do?

Bush: But I think we could, yeah. I think it’s also a generational thing.

King: You think it’s coming?

Bush: Yeah, that will come, I think.

King: How about choice?

Bush: I write in the book about the very first question I got on the morning of George’s inauguration, from Katie Couric, who asked me two questions about abortion. That was the social issue in 2000 that everyone got asked about. And then I think gay marriage was the social issue in 2004. And I was say probably in the more recent election as well.

She asked me … two questions about abortion, and then she asked me if I was for the overturn of Roe versus Wade. And sort of everything went through my mind. This was the very morning my husband was about to be inaugurated. And I thought, do I really want to start my husband’s presidency, you know, suggesting that a Supreme Court rule being overturned. And I said no.

And I think it’s important that it remain legal, because I think it’s important for people, for medical reasons and other reasons.