No one would accuse President Obama of talking about LGBT rights too much, but when he does get around to doing so, he can be pretty direct. At a press conference in Senegal on Thursday, Obama took a deep dive into gay issues, commenting more about the Supreme Court DOMA ruling and prodding his host country to eliminate laws criminalizing homosexuality.
Obama made a key point about the ruling. From the federal government’s perspective, he thinks you are married even if you move to a state that doesn’t recognize your marriage.
“It’s my personal belief, but I’m speaking now as a president not as a lawyer, that if you marry someone in Massachusetts and you move somewhere else, you’re still married,” Obama said at a news conference. “We’re going to be evaluating all these issues.” This is an important issue, since many federal benefits, including Social Security survival benefits, depend on whether the state you live in recognizes your marriage.
At the same press conference, Obama made pointed observations about Senegal’s own laws that criminalize homosexuality.
“But when it comes to how the state treats people, how the law treats people, I believe that everybody has to be treated equally,” Obama said. “I don’t believe in discrimination of any sort. That’s my personal view. And I speak as somebody who comes from a country in which there were times when people were not treated equally under the law, and we had to fight long and hard under a civil rights struggle to make sure that happened.”
Senegal President Macky Sall responded to Obama’s comments defensively. He said that Senegal is not ready to decriminalize homosexuality,” because “we have different traditions.” At the same time, Sall insisted that his country is “not homophobic.” After all, who could ever think that throwing people in jail for being gay is some kind of homophobia?