Obama was both elected and reelected with strong support from the gay rights movement. In May, he became the first president to endorse same-sex marriage, saying he had undergone “an evolution” on the matter.
“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,” Obama said, somewhat hesitantly, to ABC’s Robin Roberts.
In literally the next breath, Obama endorsed a go-slow approach, saying he didn’t want to “nationalize” the issue.
“What you’re seeing is, I think, states working through this issue — in fits and starts, all across the country,” Obama continued. “Different communities are arriving at different conclusions, at different times. . . . 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.”
But the court Friday did raise the possibility that the issue would be “nationalized” by agreeing to review California’s Proposition 8. That is the 2008 referendum in which voters amended the state constitution to forbid same-sex marriage, which had been sanctioned by the state supreme court earlier in the year.
The Obama administration has never taken a position on the challenge to Proposition 8, which federal courts have overturned.
Theodore Olson and David Boies, who have led the high-profile legal challenge to Proposition 8, said in a celebratory telephone call with reporters that they would defend a decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. It overturned the referendum in a narrow way that restored the right to same-sex marriage in California.
But they also said they would push the court to rule that it is unconstitutional to exclude gay couples from the right to marry, no matter where they live. And in response to a question from Josh Gerstein of Politico, they turned up the heat a bit on the Obama administration.
Boise called it “the defining civil rights question of our time,” and Olson added, “Given the stand that the president of the United States and the attorney general of the United States have made with respect to marriage equality, we would certainly hope that they would participate.”
He continued: “I’m quite confident . . . that they would support our position in this case, that the denial of equal rights is subject to close scrutiny by the courts and cannot withstand that scrutiny.”