President Obama announced from Senegal on Thursday that he will be working to legalize same-sex marriages in all 50 states.
“It's my personal belief -- and I'm speaking now as a president [not] as a lawyer -- if you're married in Massachusetts and you move someplace else, you're still married,” he said at a press conference in Dakar, Senegal.
The Supreme Court’s Wednesday ruling struck down the provision in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defines marriage (and therefore all its federal benefits) as only between a man and a woman. Shortly after the Supreme Court’s announcement of the ruling, Obama pledged to swiftly extend marital privileges to same-sex couples in the 12 states where same-sex unions have been legalized. Due to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Proposition 8, California will soon follow in legalizing same-sex marriage.
“It's important that people who deserve these benefits, that they're getting them quickly,” Obama said, calling the ruling a “victory for American democracy.” Though the Supreme Court essentially ruled that gay couples are equal to heterosexual couples according to the law, the ruling did not legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.
“The Supreme Court did not make a blanket ruling that applies nationally, but rather lifted up the ability of states to recognize and respect same-sex marriage, and that the federal government couldn't negate the decision by those states,” Obama explained.
The president, though always a supporter of gay rights, has admitted to swaying on the subject of gay marriage for political reasons. However, over the last couple years, public opinion has flip-flopped and is now largely in support of legalizing gay marriage. Obama blatantly came out in favor of the movement before the 2012 election, and has received a great deal of political support from gay rights groups since.
Former president Bill Clinton, who signed DOMA into law in 1996, has also changed his tune and lauded the Supreme Court’s decision as another step towards creating “a more perfect union.”