Feb. 28, 2013
Press reports indicate that President Obama’s Justice Department will file a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn California’s Proposition 8—the state constitutional amendment adopted by California voters in 2008, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Most people know that President Obama announced last May, for the first time, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” But at the same time, he repeatedly said that this debate should play out at the “local” (presumably he meant “state”) level, and not be “nationalized” or “federalized.”
So is today’s decision hypocritical? Judge for yourself from the following excerpts from President Obama’s May 9 remarks:
Transcript: Robin Roberts ABC News Interview With President Obama
Obama Announced That He Now Supports Same-Sex Marriage
May 9, 2012
… I’ve been going through an evolution on this issue… . Whether it’s no longer defending the Defense Against Marriage Act, which— tried to federalize— what [has] historically been state law.
. . .
At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that— for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that— I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. Now— I have to tell you that part of my hesitation on this has also been I didn’t want to nationalize the issue. There’s a tendency when I weigh in to think suddenly it becomes political and it becomes polarized.
And what you’re seeing is, I think, states working through this issue— in fits and starts, all across the country. Different communities are arriving at different conclusions, at different times. And I think that’s a healthy process and a healthy debate. And I continue to believe that this is an issue that is gonna be worked out at the local level, because historically, this has not been a federal issue, what’s recognized as a marriage.
. . .
… [W]hat I’m saying is is that different states are coming to different conclusions. But this debate is taking place— at a local level. And I think the whole country is evolving and changing. And— you know, one of the things that I’d like to see is— that a conversation continue in a respectful way.
I think it’s important to recognize that— folks— who— feel very strongly that marriage should be defined narrowly as— between a man and a woman— many of them are not coming at it from a mean-spirited perspective. They’re coming at it because they care about families.
. . .
ROBIN ROBERTS: I— I know you were saying— and are saying about it being on the local level and the state level. But as president of theUnited Statesand this is a game changer for many people, to hear the president of theUnited Statesfor the first time say that personally he has no objection to same-sex marriage. Are there some actions that you can take as president? Can you ask your Justice Department to join in the litigation in fighting states that are banning same-sex marriage?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I— you know, my Justice Department has already— said that it is not gonna defend— the Defense Against Marriage Act. That we consider that a violation of equal protection clause. And I agree with them on that. You know? I helped to prompt that— that move on the part of the Justice Department.
Part of the reason that I thought it was important— to speak to this issue was the fact that— you know, I’ve got an opponent on— on the other side in the upcoming presidential election, who wants to— re-federalize the issue and— institute a constitutional amendment— that would prohibit gay marriage. And, you know, I think it is a mistake to— try to make what has traditionally been a state issue into a national issue.
I think that— you know, the winds of change are happening. They’re not blowin’— with the same force in every state… .
. . .
I want to emphasize— that— I’ve got a lot of friends— on the other side of this issue. You know, I’m sure they’ll be callin’ me up and— and I respect them. And I understand their perspective, in part, because— their impulse is the right one. Which is they want to— they want to preserve and strengthen families.
And I think they’re concerned about— won’t you see families breaking down… .
. . .
I’m not gonna be spending most of my time talking about this, because frankly— my job as president right now, my biggest priority is to make sure that— we’re growing the economy, that we’re puttin’ people back to work, that we’re managing the draw down in Afghanistan, effectively. Those are the things that— I’m gonna focus on… .