Mitt Romney reinforced his stance that marriage is "between one man and one woman" while delivering the commencement address at Liberty University on Saturday.
"The American culture promotes personal responsibility, the dignity of work, the value of education, the merit of service, devotion to a purpose greater than self, and, at the foundation, the pre-eminence of the family," Romney said. "As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate. So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman."
Despite a top Republican pollster's warning that the GOP's views on gay marriage could be risky, Romney's remarks were well-received at the Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia. A senior Romney adviser told reporters Friday that Romney planned to use the speech to "mention the fact that marriage is an enduring institution which deserves to be defended."
Romney's comments came just days after President Barack Obama made news by becoming the first sitting president to announce his support for same-sex marriage.
"I've always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally," Obama told ABC's Robin Roberts, noting he has "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."
After addressing marriage, Romney touched on the subject of religious freedom, which he said has "become a matter of debate."
"It strikes me as odd that the free exercise of religious faith is sometimes treated as a problem, something America is stuck with instead of blessed with," Romney said. "Perhaps religious conscience upsets the designs of those who feel that the highest wisdom and authority comes from government."
"There is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action," Romney continued.
Ahead of Romney's address, the Obama campaign stressed that there is a "strong contrast" between the president and the presumptive Republican nominee when it comes to values that are important to religious Americans. Rev. Derrick Harkins, the director of religious outreach for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, said on a Friday conference call Obama stands for "values like loving our neighbors, being our brother's and sister's keeper and dignity for all" and "has stood up for Christian principles."
Watch excerpts of Romney's Liberty University commencement address above.
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