President Obama Tells MTV Supreme Court Will Strike Down DOMA, But Opposes Federal Legislation

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In an MTV interview on Friday, President Obama discussed how the struggle for marriage equality would play out in his second term (God willing). The President kept to his states-rights argument but predicted the Supreme Court would soon rule the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans legally married gay couples from receiving federal recognition, was unconstitutional.

Historically, marriages have been defined at the state level. And there’s a conversation going on… there’s some states that are still having the debate. And I think for us to try to legislate federally into this is probably the wrong way to go,

The courts are going to be examining these issues. I’ve stood up and said I’m opposed to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act… 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 Defense of Marriage Act will be overturned. But, ultimately, I believe that if we have that conversation at the state level, the evolution that’s taking place in this country will get us to a place where we are going to be recognizing everybody fairly.

I’m very proud of that 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 pushing as hard as I can.

Is there really a cogent argument here? Imagine if Loving v. Virginia  meant interracial couples could receive federal benefits but could still be discriminated against on the state level.

At least one member of the audience at the “Ask Obama” event at Georgetown University didn’t see the President’s logic. Tucker, a student in Washington State, said:

“I love having a president in the White House who can go on MTV and say that he thinks gay and lesbian people should get married… But the fact is, it’s been four years and the Defense of Marriage Act is still on the books, and I don’t think the conversation should be left to the states. I believe in evolution too, but I believe there’s a right answer to that question, and we need to take it farther.”

What’s your takeaway? Weigh in with your opinion in the comments section.

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  • Fidelio

    Obama is my candidate, but I can’t help cringing at this. It’s a bit disingenuous to support gay marriage, yet not work towards federal legislation. The President knows better than anyone the difference between rights on federal level vs state level. This goes beyond patronizing.

  • jwrappaport

    Oh, come on – it’s pre-election talk. He’s just hedging his bet and allaying the fears of the teabaggers that the big bad fed is going to impose SSM on everyone. I have a feeling he’s going to be more of an ally in his second term and “evolve” at a less glacial pace. Does anyone else hate that euphemism? “Evolve.” It bespeaks his lack of conviction in the first place, but whatever. I just don’t want Romney in office.

    Also, Queerty – wtf is the deal with the Romney ads on here? I get that you have bills to pay, but really? You’d put ads of a guy who fundamentally doesn’t respect who we are? Can I run out and get you any Chick-fil-a while you’re at it?

  • John Doe

    These “states rights” statements from Obama and others really bothers me when we’re talking about civil rights.

    First, the Equal Protection Clause specifically says that “No STATE shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    Thus, if you’re going to say that DOMA (a federal law) is unconstitutional, SIMPLE logic tells you that state-level discrimination is JUST as unconstitutional. In fact the Equal Protection Clause specifically mentions “STATES” and does not mention the federal government. We only apply the Equal Protection Clause to federal laws because SCOTUS has ruled that it should apply there also. Otherwise the EPC would only apply to the states.

    Second, if we left civil rights up to the states, slavery and anti-black laws would have continued in the southern states for years or decades longer… and might possibly still exist in some states. We can’t, and the Constitution won’t allow, inequality on civil rights to be hit-and-miss across the country. If it is unconstitutional, then it is unconstitutional in all 50 states.

    Although I am very thankful for the internal or mental progress of Obama and others, no one can say that DOMA is unconstitutional and then also say that states can then decide for themselves on whether or not to deny equality to gays and lesbians. Either Obama is ignorant about simple Constitutional law, is still a little judgmental about gays and lesbians OR he is just playing politics in order to appease voters by essentially not stating that he believes everyone everywhere must accept sexual orientation equality whether they like it or not. Saying that it should be left to the states satisfies those who dislike federal mandates… and also those who remain ant-gay. Still, it doesn’t make leaving it up to the states (or making that claim) morally or unconstitutionally right. I wish that he’s just take the risk and stand up for full equality. We had this from our President in the sixties (and he knew it was a massive political risk that could destroy his party). But, he still did the right thing and stood up against those who opposed inequality, essentially the entire South. Obama isn’t even half that brave. Everything is about political winds and letting voters or the courts be the leaders here. Sorry, but where I was raised this is not being a strong leader. It is letting the tail wag the dog.

  • viveutvivas

    If you want to vote for someone who supports gay rights unconditionally, cares about climate change, jobs, and universal health care, maybe the Green party is a better choice, especially if you don’t live in a swing state.

  • MK Ultra

    I’m going to give Obama tne benefit of tne doubt and assume that he is aying this because he must. Some of his supporters aren’t supporters of SSM, so it would be a smart move not to alienate tneir vote. But I truly believe he is an ally and before tne end of his seco d term we will see marriage on tne federal scale. he will ‘evolve’.

  • shle896

    I totally trust our president to do the right thing. He’s been very good for the gay community and I think he is definitely our ally, so if he believes DOMA should be overturned and left up to individual states, then I trust there is a reason behind it. Time and again, the president has proven that he has the end-game and bigger picture in mind when he does things, so I give him the benefit of the doubt. I just pray he gets reelected, otherwise we’re screwed.

  • viveutvivas

    You sound like a drone who doesn’t like thinking for himself.

  • sammas

    @viveutvivas: couldn’t have said it better!

  • ScaryRussianHeather

    So cute how people believe Obama can evolve on marriage equality but refuse Romney the same evolutionary view on abortion. Anyway…

    I have no interest in what Obama actually believes. He’s an ever changing “composite”. One thing i do know is the only important thing to him and his strategic planners is to get as many citizens as possible inextricably dependent on government in as many ways as possible.

    Regardless, Obama is correct that IF the courts cannot legislate marriage equality it will have to come from future generations and attrition, LGBT people living OUT lives and relationships with hetero people changing hearts. That boils down to state level legislation. There IS NO OTHER alternative solution but to hope that PEOPLE will change.

    That’s what you get with central planning big government that Liberals love, meddling in personal relationships – dictating what should actually be a simple interpersonal religious union and/or adoption processes turning into a government approved “business” partnership. Something that’s too late to re-engineer now.

  • sammas

    It’s obvious he’s playing the LGBT people. He could have passed legislation but he didn’t because it would anger the black ministers, a broad base for his reelection. It’s unlikely he’ll do it if he is reelected because it’s not important to him, just as he pandered to the Latino voters and didn’t put anything on the table. Did you see on MTV he now thinks it should be left up to the states? I hate being used, I’m not voting for him. Let me say that again, I HATE BEING USED! I’ll vote Romney, he atleast seems honorable.

  • Dumdum

    @ScaryRussianHeather: I think it’s cute the way trolls get on these websites and say stupid inflammatory things, defending the right wing fascists all in the name of liberty claiming that liberals want to suckle at the poor withered teat of lady liberty at the expense of the down trodden religious [email protected]sammas: I enjoy being played, I want to be used. I wouldn’t be Gay if I didn’t. We know who the trolls are, you all stand out because you are not very good at what you do. Grammar, syntax and your choice of words all give you away. So piss off you bloody wankers you are not fooling anyone but the most dense.

  • Aidan8

    @ScaryRussianHeather: Of course Obama’s positions evolve with time. Everyone’s positions evolve somewhat as times and circumstances/trends/society changes. No one suggests Romney’s cannot evolve…. it’s just that some of his positions have evolved in a bad direction. i.e., less freedom, more government interference in personal life, etc. If Obama came out a year from now saying he evolved on marriage equality and is against it, he’d deserve criticism. Just like Romney deserves criticism on his abortion flip-flopping.

  • unclemike

    @sammas: What is this magic legislation Obama could have passed but didn’t? It’s the House and Senate that “passes” legislation, and the President just signs it into law. Romney has said, more than once, that he would sign a constitutional amendment to prevent marriage equality.

    Again, Romney will make marriage between two adults against the Constitution of the United States. And you’re going to vote for him?

  • Aaron

    @ScaryRussianHeather: “That’s what you get with central planning big government that Liberals love, meddling in personal relationships – dictating what should actually be a simple interpersonal religious union and/or adoption processes turning into a government approved “business” partnership. Something that’s too late to re-engineer now.”

    Wait, -liberals- are meddling in personal relationships? Who exactly is putting forth amendments and referendums to “define” marriage and adoption? I’d think you were trying to joke if I hadn’t read the rest of your posting.

  • Aidan8

    @Aaron: Heather just spouts the old conservative/GOP canard that liberals/Dems are commies who want central planning. What’s amazing is that the GOP are HUGE government… just spending it in a different way. e.g. gigantic subsidies for agribusiness, huge defense contracts, and unfunded wars. I guess according to Heather and Paul Ryan and GOP… that’s not big government. It’s only “big government” when it helps the poor.

  • viveutvivas

    Aidan8, if, like me, you are against gigantic subsidies for agribusiness, huge defense contracts, and unfunded wars, not to mention subsidies for the financial and pharmaceutical industries, and violations of human rights with actions like drone strikes on civilians and support for right-wing or fascist governments abroad, you would be making a mistake voting for the Democrats, who are supporting and carrying out all of these things. Rather, the Green Party wold be a better fit for you.

  • Aidan8

    @viveutvivas: True indeed. I’m no apologist for the Dems or Obama. Although Obama’s been good in certain respects, he’s been horrible in others. And the Democratic Party as a whole is owned by big-business, just like the GOP. For me it’s a matter of degree… the Dems are not as bad as the GOP in many areas I care about. And I think Romney would be a disaster. My position is this: if you live in a state that’s solidly Democratic, then vote for the Greens or another more progressive party. But if you live in a swing state, vote for Democrats. God help us if a Republican (Romney) gets to pick the next two or three Supreme Court justices.

  • viveutvivas

    Aidan, I agree, I would certainly not advocate voting for the Greens in a swing state, but otherwise yes, we desperately need alternatives to the to-party status quo.

  • viveutvivas

    Sorry, two-party, damn iPad touch keyboard.

  • jwrappaport

    @Aidan8: You echo my sentiments – much as Jill Stein would be an improvement over Obama, she and other third partiers stand no real chance of winning. It’s a prisoner’s dilemma of sorts, but I have never been persuaded to let perfect (Green) be the enemy of good (Democratic), especially when there exists a party that openly commits itself to denying us equality before the law and dignity before our straight countrymen.

    The idea of Romney selecting three Supremes should terrify anyone who gives a lick about gay rights, trans equality, or women’s rights. I don’t think I overstate the stakes by saying that the next president will set the judiciary’s posture on these issues for literally decades to come – Bowers (Supreme Court decision upholding anti-sodomy laws) was good law for almost two decades; please, let’s not have a repeat of that, especially considering that Roberts, Alito, and any Romney appointees will easily be on the Court until I am in my fifties (I am 24 now). I have essentially no faith in the legislature, which makes the judiciary all the more the crucial a battleground on which these issues will be fought.

    I always tell Republican-leaning friends what Cardinal Wolsey said to Thomas More in The Tudors (just before the former’s downfall): “If you are not for me now, then you are against me. The stakes have grown higher…” I didn’t start this culture war, but it’s on.

  • Dumdum

    The only problem with the Green Party and Jill Stein is…. OH WAIT!!! There is nothing wrong with it. Their platform is what every forward thinking intelligent human being would want. Not only for themselves but for future generations. Unfortunately intelligent people appear to be in the minority. One is rarely presented with alternatives by the mainstream media and that is what most Americans pay attention to. Presently people in America simply are not evolved enough in their consciousness to embrace new ideas. They do not think about tomorrow. They are like little babies that want to be fed now. Logic and critical thinking is not part of the equation for these people and politicians KNOW THAT AND PLAY TO IT. When you are worried about how you are going to pay your bills, feed your kids, keep a roof over your head and work long hours to do so. You do not have time to think about the big picture, you let someone else do it for you. We can sit around argue back and forth, share ideas, point out each others short comings and grammatical errors. But tomorrow the sun will rise and all of the same old power hungry money grubbing white male fat cats will still be pulling our strings and watching us dance.

  • Dumdum

    @jwrappaport: I am 52 and have watching this process with interest since I was 18. I could not wait to vote and get involved. I came out in 1975 in San Francisco. I handed out flyers for Harvey Milk. I stood on street corners getting petitions signed. Well we all know how that turned out. Things ARE getting better, but to me it feels like three steps forward, two steps back. I do not live in a swing state so for my own conscience and peace of mind, I am voting Green though they don’t stand a snowballs chance in hell.

  • Billysees

    @John Doe: Re 3, “These “states rights”….

    I know little about the interaction between state and federal powers.

    But you have explained this subject matter in a simple and easy to understand way.

    The President you referred to in the sixties was LBJ of course. One of the greatest we’ve ever had. And yes, it was politically risky to do what he did but he did it anyhow, and there has been a price paid ever since.

    Obama is probably not an LBJ, however, his stance on “gay rights” is still better than any President has ever been. In this election year he has wavered “not” in this support.

    Our hope, at this point in time, is that he be re-elected so the work he has championed will not slow down.

  • Billysees

    @Dumdum: Re 23, “I am 52….

    I enjoyed your little bio here.

    You said, “Things ARE getting better, but to me it feels like three steps forward, two steps back”.

    It’s always been that way for the “gay community” and it probably always will be in one way or another.

    Jewish people, God’s beloved and the predecessor people of Christians, have been persecuted ever since they came-to-be.

    Should we LGBT folks (God’s beloved also) expect anything else?

Comments are closed.