White House

Obama: Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Is a ‘Victory for America’

“There are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt,” Obama said Friday.

President Barack Obama delivers a statement after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide, June 26, 2015.  
National Journal
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Rebecca Nelson
June 26, 2015, 7:38 a.m.

For the second time in two days, Pres­id­ent Obama com­men­ded the Su­preme Court rul­ing in re­marks from the White House Rose Garden on Fri­day. This time, he cheered the Court’s de­cision to make same-sex mar­riage leg­al and equal in states across the coun­try.

“It’s a vic­tory for gay and les­bi­an couples who fought so long for their ba­sic civil rights,” Obama said. “It’s a vic­tory for their chil­dren whose fam­il­ies will now be re­cog­nized as equal to any oth­er. And this rul­ing is a vic­tory for Amer­ica.”

“There’s so much more work to be done to ex­tend the full prom­ise of every Amer­ic­an,” Obama con­tin­ued. “But today we can say in no un­cer­tain terms that we’ve made our uni­on a little more per­fect.”

Shortly be­fore he spoke, Obama called Jim Oberge­fell, the lead plaintiff in the land­mark case. He con­grat­u­lated him on the his­tor­ic vic­tory, and told him—on speak­erphone on CNN—”your lead­er­ship on this, you know, has changed the coun­try.”

In a 5-4 de­cision Fri­day, the Su­preme Court ruled that same-sex mar­riages must be al­lowed in every state. Justice An­thony Kennedy, who wrote the ma­jor­ity opin­ion, called mar­riage “key­stone of the Na­tion’s so­cial or­der.”

“The lim­it­a­tion of mar­riage to op­pos­ite-sex couples may long have seemed nat­ur­al and just,” Kennedy wrote, “but its in­con­sist­ency with the cent­ral mean­ing of the fun­da­ment­al right to marry is now mani­fest.”

Though the de­cision was widely ex­pec­ted, it is an enorm­ous mile­stone for LGBT rights, mov­ing the num­ber of states that al­low same-sex mar­riage from 36—plus the Dis­trict of Columbia—to all 50. The de­cision also re­quires states to re­cog­nize same-sex mar­riages gran­ted else­where in the United States.

“This de­cision will end the patch­work sys­tem we cur­rently have,” Obama said. “It will end the un­cer­tainty hun­dreds of thou­sands of same-sex couples face from not know­ing if their mar­riage, le­git­im­ate in the eyes of one state, will re­main if they de­cide to move or even vis­it an­oth­er.

“This rul­ing will strengthen all of our com­munit­ies by of­fer­ing to all lov­ing same-sex couples the dig­nity of mar­riage across this great land,” he ad­ded.

After op­pos­ing it in the 2008 elec­tion, Pres­id­ent Obama en­dorsed equal leg­al stand­ing for same-sex mar­riages in 2012, ex­plain­ing that his views were “evolving” on the is­sue. “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,” he said then, in an in­ter­view with ABC’s Robin Roberts an­noun­cing his shift.

Sixty per­cent of Amer­ic­ans sup­port gay mar­riage, ac­cord­ing to a Gal­lup poll from May—a re­cord high. That’s up 5 per­cent from 2014. When Gal­lup began ask­ing about same-sex mar­riage in 1996, only 27 per­cent of re­spond­ents said same-sex mar­riages should be re­cog­nized by the state and giv­en the same rights as mar­riages between a man and a wo­man.

In his re­marks, Obama said that the chan­ging defin­i­tion of mar­riage is a part of the jour­ney to en­sure that “we are all cre­ated equal” rings true for all Amer­ic­ans.

“Pro­gress on this jour­ney of­ten comes in small in­cre­ments,” he said. “Some­times two steps for­ward, one step back, pro­pelled by the per­sist­ent ef­fort of ded­ic­ated cit­izens. And then some­times there are days like this when that slow, steady ef­fort is re­war­ded with justice that ar­rives like a thun­der­bolt.”

The de­cision caps off one of Obama’s most suc­cess­ful weeks in of­fice. Thursday morn­ing, the Su­preme Court ruled in fa­vor of the Af­ford­able Care Act, his sig­na­ture health care law. Just hours later, Con­gress sent a key part of his trade agenda, trade-ad­just­ment as­sist­ance, to his desk.

Former Sen. Tom Daschle, a long­time Obama con­fid­ant who now chairs the pub­lic ad­vis­ory firm the Daschle Group, said of the pres­id­ent’s twin vic­tor­ies Thursday: “It’s why you run for of­fice. It’s why you as­pire to put up with all the oth­er neg­at­ive as­pects of work in polit­ics and gov­ern­ing.”

“This is as good as it gets for the pres­id­ent of the United States,” he con­tin­ued. “It will nev­er be a bet­ter week than this for him.”

Lucky for him, this latest de­cision came down the same week.

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