BURBANK, Calif. -- President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he has "no patience" for countries, like Russia, that intimidate and harm individuals based on their sexual orientation.
Obama criticized a new Russian law cracking down on gay rights activism during an interview with NBC's "The Tonight Show.", saying he has "no patience for countries that try to treat gays and lesbians and transgendered persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them."
Russia has said it will enforce the law when it hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics. Asked whether the law would impact the games, Obama said he believes Putin and Russia have "a big stake in making sure the Olympics work."
"I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn't tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently," he said.
Obama continued, "One of the things I think is very important for me to speak out on is making sure that people are treated fairly and justly because that's what we stand for, and I believe that that's a precept that's not unique to America. That's just something that should apply everywhere."
Obama also said he was "disappointed" that Russia granted temporary asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, defying Obama administration demands that the former government contractor be sent back to the U.S. to face espionage charges.
In his first comments about Snowden since Russia's decision last week, Obama said the move reflected the "underlying challenges" he faces in dealing with Moscow.
"There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality," Obama said.
Snowden, an ex-NSA systems analyst, is accused of leaking details about highly-secretive government surveillance programs. He spent several weeks in the transit zone of a Moscow airport before being granted asylum for a year.
Russia's decision has pushed the White House to reconsider Obama's plans to travel to Russia in September. He said he would attend an international summit in St. Petersburg, saying it was important for the U.S. to be represented at talks among global economic powers. But he did not say whether he planned to attend separate meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
The White House has said it was evaluating the "utility" of the Putin meetings.
In a wide-ranging interview, to be broadcast Tuesday, Obama also lauded two of his former political rivals: former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Once bitter adversaries, Obama and McCain have deepened their ties in recent months. The Republican senator helped usher a White House-backed overhaul of U.S. immigration law through the Senate and most recently negotiated a plan to clear the way for votes on several stalled Obama nominees.
The president said that while he and McCain still have significant policy differences, the Republican senator is "a person of integrity." But Obama said jokingly that it's probably not good for McCain if the Democratic president compliments him on television.
Obama also discussed his recent lunch with Clinton, his rival in the 2008 Democratic primaries. Clinton, who left the State Department earlier this year, had a post-administration "glow," Obama said.
But he sidestepped questions about whether she was measuring the curtains in the White House for a possible 2016 presidential bid.
"Keep in mind," Obama said, "she's been there before."
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"I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman," Mitt Romney said.
"This is a major turning point in the history of American civil rights," said New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. "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. Today's announcement is a testament to the President's convictions, and it builds on the courageous stands that so many Americans have taken over the years on behalf of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans, stretching back to the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village."
"I applaud President Obama for announcing his support for marriage equality today," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) "For the first time in this nation's history, a sitting president has shown the courage and leadership to stand up for all American families by pledging to support the fundamental right of every person to marry the person they love, and to have that marriage fully respected. I commend President Obama for this brave and honest step. Those who seek to politicize civil rights for personal or political gain will certainly attack him, but the course toward marriage equality and justice is the correct and inevitable path."
"I'm thrilled!" longshot GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger told HuffPost, referring to Obama's embrace of marriage equality. Karger is the first openly gay Republican or Democrat to run for president. "The Karger pressure has worked," he joked. "Particularly after the defeat in North Carolina, we welcome him to the full equality position."
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen
Senator Chris Coons
"I have been blessed to have a long and happy marriage. I strongly believe all Americans deserve that same opportunity," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)
"While President Obama has played politics on this issue, the Republican Party and our presumptive nominee Mitt Romney have been clear. We support maintaining marriage between one man and one woman and would oppose any attempts to change that," said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Christine C. Quinn
"Barack Obama just announced he supports same-sex marriage," Mike Huckabee wrote in a fundraising appeal to supporters. "Nancy Pelosi immediately jumped on the announcement and emailed Democrat activists nationwide promising to continue their fight. This is going to be a defining issue this election. Obama, Pelosi and the Democrats have been a complete failure on economic issues so now they are going to focus on issues that will rile up their base. Well, Mr. President it's going to rile up our folks also. Men and women who support traditional marriage."
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"President Obama's support for marriage equality marks an important moment for civil rights in America," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), who co-sponsored legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). "We simply can not treat same sex couples as second-class citizens in our country. Marriage equality is one of the most significant civil rights battles of our time and is critical to guaranteeing the equal protection under the law promised to every American in the Constitution. The President's support for marriage equality should inspire Congress, Governors and state legislatures to advance civil rights for all Americans."
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Sen. Patrick Leahy
"This is an historic moment and I applaud the President for his decision and courage," Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said. "One of the greatest and most liberating human emotions is acceptance. And what the President did today was accept that the quality of love two people share is more important than their gender. The President's decision required him look within and engage his heart. It is truly wonderful and welcome news."
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"As an early and strong proponent of Marriage Equality, I am very happy that President Obama has made this announcement," said Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) "Marriage Equality is a matter of basic human rights and all of America's same-sex families are now closer to having their unions recognized by our government. This is an important step in our country's march toward achieving true justice and equality for all."
"President Obama's public support for marriage equality is an historic affirmation of the fundamental American value of equal rights for all," said Howard Dean. "Having signed the nation's first law allowing Civil Unions as Governor of Vermont, I'm also proud to see our president affirm the belief that I and so many other Americans hold: loving and committed couples should have the same benefits that are extended through marriage. Marriage equality is a right and a benefit to all families."
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Sen. Barbara Boxer
Senator Dick Durbin