Politicians and gay rights activists have begun to react to President Obama’s announcement today that he supports equal marriage for same-sex couples.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement: “His presidency has shown that our nation can move beyond its shameful history of discrimination and injustice. In him, millions of young Americans have seen that their futures will not be limited by what makes them different. In supporting marriage equality, President Obama extends that message of hope to a generation of young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, helping them understand that they too can be who they are and flourish as part of the American community.”

The presumptive Republican nominee for the presidential elections, Mitt Romney, said during his campaign: “I have had the same view I’ve had since, well, since running for office … I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.,” though he added that he realised this was a “very tender and sensitive topic.”

Rick Santorum, who bowed out of the presidential race earlier in the year, released a statement on his website: “Obama has consistently fought against protecting the institution of marriage from radical social engineering.”

The gay advocacy group, Log Cabin Republicans, was harsher in its judgement: “Log Cabin Republicans¬†appreciate that President Obama has finally come in line with leaders like Vice President Dick Cheney on this issue, but LGBT Americans are right to be angry that this calculated announcement comes too late to be of any use to the people of North Carolina, or any of the other states that have addressed this issue on his watch. 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.”

Meanwhile, the White House has been at pains to emphasise that this is a personal position and not a political position, which some commentators have said does not go far enough.

Here, in the UK,¬†Out4marriage, a new UK based global campaign for equal marriage said: “We are pleased to see that President Obama has finally given his personal support to the right of gay couples to marry with the same rights as a heterosexual couple.

We note, that President Obama is backing equal marriage on a personal basis and is not pledging to introduce legislation to give all couples the right to marry. This stands in contrast to the equal marriage enjoyed by gay couples in Canada, Belgium, Norway, Argentina, The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and South Africa.

We hope that President Obama’s support might cause David Cameron to speed up the enactment of his pledge to introduce equal marriage in England and Wales. Unlike in the United States, equal marriage is supported across the political spectrum as represented by the multi-party support we have enjoyed in this our first day of campaigning.

It is a particular delight that on a day where we have started to ask the public to say that ‘love is the same, straight or gay’ and ‘come Out4Marriage’, the most powerful man in the world has done exactly that.”