The Washington Post

Know who won’t be watching the Supreme Court oral arguments on gay marriage? President Obama.

One in an occasional series of observational pieces keyed off the White House daily briefing.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest scored a political point Monday when Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason asked whether the president would be watching the historic oral arguments on gay marriage at the Supreme Court this week.

The Supreme Court

"How is the White House watching this?" Mason asked. "Are you sending any staff to the hearings? Will the president be watching? Can you give us any color ahead of those hearings on that?"

"Well, as you know, Jeff, the Supreme Court doesn't actually televise the hearings, so it will impact our ability to watch it," Earnest said, prompting laughter from the assembled reporters.

"Touché," Mason replied. "I'll bet you could get a seat."

When Mason pressed on, asking whether anyone from the Obama administration would attend, Earnest was noncommittal.

"I don't know whether or not there will be administration -- Obama administration staffers in the room as the arguments are being held," he said. "But it -- this certainly is an issue that the president has followed carefully. You know, there have been briefs that have been filed in the case from the Department of Justice representing the Obama administration's legal position on these issues."

In fact, that's exactly why there will be Obama administration officials in the Supreme Court over the next couple of days. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. will be arguing on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the argument over California's ban on gay marriage, and will be joined by Obama's deputy solicitor general Sri Srinivasan in arguments Wednesday during the hearing on whether to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.


Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.



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