Showing his sensitivity to equal human rights once again, President Barack Obama reiterated his support for same-sex marriage in an interview with MTV. In fact, he said that he expects DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act) to be overturned for a very interesting reason — it infringes on states’ rights. Usually claimed as a defense for conservatives (a prime example is the Affordable Care Act; conservatives claim Obamacare infringes on states’ rights), Obama has cited that states have the right to decide on marriage equality laws and DOMA takes that away.
Here’s the transcript from the interview, and you can find the video on BuzzFeed:
INTERVIEWER: ”I want to switch subjects. Over two thirds of young Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage, but we often hear, “what is the next step?” Um, now you’ve said that it’s a states’ rights issue, but historically, the federal government has stepped in to ensure equality for Americans in all states. During President Johnson’s administration, we saw the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act, and the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision struck down all race-based restrictions on marriage.
Now, if you believe this is the right thing, Mr. President, during your second term will you see this thing through to ensure that all Americans have equal rights in the eyes of the federal government?”
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: “Well first of all, as you know, I’ve been very clear about my belief that same-sex couples have to be treated before the eyes of the law in the same way as heterosexual couples. I think that’s the right thing to do, it’s based on my personal experience seeing loving couples; [they are] committed to each other, raising kids, and are just outstanding people. And, you know, I was supportive of civil unions, but they taught me that if you’re using different words, if you’re somehow singling them out; they don’t feel true equality.
What I’ve also said is…is historically marriages have been defined at the state level. And there’s a conversation going on. New York has, you know, moved forward, with one set of ideas. There are still some other states that are still having that debate. And I think that for us to try to legislate federally into this area is probably the wrong way to go. The courts are going to be examining these issues. I mean, I have stood up and said I am opposed to the so-called Defense Against Marriage Act. Because, what that does is it says the federal government won’t even recognize a marriage for a state that has decided they are going to recognize same-sex couples.
So if you’re a couple in Massachusetts that’s been married, the federal government is saying that “we’re not going to recognize that” for purposes of transferring Social Security benefits or something like that. I’ve said that’s wrong. There are a couple of cases that are working their way through the courts, and my expectation is that the Defense Against Marriage Act will be overturned. But, ultimately, I believe that if we have that conversation at a state level, these — the evolution that’s taken place in this country will get us to a place where we are going to be recognizing everybody fairly.
And I’m very proud of the fact that, as President, I’ve got a track record of not just talking the talk on this, but walking the walk; ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, making sure that federal employees are treated equally when it comes to their partners, and I’m going to keep on pushing as hard as I can. But what’s really going to change this is the fact that young people, their attitudes, I think are going to reflect the future, instead of the past.”
This shows President Obama to be both caring and intelligent, and knowledgeable about Constitutional law: this is, indeed, a states’ rights issue (for now; the interviewer was right when he said the federal government has stepped in for equality before), and by providing his endorsement for same-sex marriage without introducing a bill to that effect, he has negated Republican legal opposition while maintaining a stance that makes it easier to combat DOMA.
Barack Obama is the first sitting president to endorse gay rights as human rights and same-sex marriage as a statement of equality, and it is likely he will be forever immortalized, in some sense, as a bastion of human rights in the early 21st century. He also makes a strong point — the vast majority of the younger generation support same-sex marriage equality, and those that fight it are only going to prove themselves to be on the wrong side of history like racists and anti-feminists before them. Ask yourself; which side of history do you wish to be on?