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President Barack Obama now calls same-sex marriage a civil right. He didn't 11 years ago.

President Barack Obama speaks to Congress.
President Barack Obama speaks to Congress.
Rob Carr/Getty Images

President Barack Obama called same-sex marriages a civil right during tonight's State of the Union speech, signaling the completion of what White House officials long characterized as his "evolution" on the issue of marriage equality.

"I've seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home," Obama said.

This is the first time Obama called marriage a civil right in a State of the Union speech, although his administration previously called it a civil right on the White House website. It's a big shift from Obama, who nearly 11 years ago said, "I don't think marriage is a civil right."

Obama announced his support for same-sex marriages in 2012, making him the first sitting president to do so.

During his time in office, the marriage equality movement has seen a huge string of victories. When Obama was inaugurated in 2009, only Massachusetts and Connecticut allowed same-sex marriages. Now, 36 states and Washington, DC, do.

The Supreme Court will consider whether to expand same-sex marriage rights to the entire country later this year. LGBT advocates and court watchers widely expect the court to rule at least 5-4 in favor of marriage equality.

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