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.