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Obama: States Should All Recognize Marriage

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington sings the National Anthem in front of the Supreme Court Wednesday. Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Morning Line

Gay couples across the country celebrated a pair of blockbuster rulings as the Supreme Court concluded its term Wednesday, but the political fight is far from over.

President Barack Obama said Thursday morning he wants to see couples from states where same-sex marriages is legal be able to have their union recognized in every state.

“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,” Mr. Obama told reporters traveling with him in Senegal, according to Politico.

The president also stressed that lawyers in his administration are working out the details of what Wednesday’s Supreme Court rulings will mean, Politico reported.

The president’s push for marriage equality began just over one year ago when he announced he had “evolved” on the issue, which also has seen a dramatic turnaround in public opinion.

Advocates on both sides of the debate made clear they will step up their efforts.

Soon after the court’s rulings were issued, the president’s Organizing for Action campaign spinoff quickly sent a note to the millions of supporters on its email list asking for support on a petition, and pledging the group would go “state by state if we have to” to push the legalization of gay marriage in the 37 places it is banned.

“For everyone who cares about equality, we’ve come so far in the past few years. This is a call to action — this is a fight we will win,” wrote Jon Carson, OFA’s executive director. “We have history on our side, and we’ve never had more momentum than we do right now.”

But conservatives in Congress announced they will push for a federal marriage amendment to restore the Defense of Marriage Act. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., told reporters he is asking aides to draft a constitutional amendment to limit marriage in the United States to between one man and one woman, writes Roll Call’s Emma Dumain.

“The court would like to think this goes away,” Huelskamp said. “They set the stage for more.”

Republican leadership was less forceful in responding. Most lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner, expressed disappointment in the court’s rulings but did not pledge action.

On the Washington Post’s front page, Dan Balz examined the political reverberations of the decision. He writes about the justices’ sense of history. And he notes:

In one sense, the politics of same-sex marriage already had reached a tipping point. Less than a decade ago, Republicans considered the issue a valuable political weapon with which to rally conservatives and put Democrats on the defensive. Today, although a majority of Republicans continue to oppose same-sex marriage, Republican leaders and candidates are on the defensive. Their positions may not have changed but many of them are silent on the issue, particularly in the context of political campaigns.

Across the country, state and local governments, along with the Obama administration, were scrambling to figure out the next steps in what could be a complicated legal and tax question, depending on where couples live.

Mr. Obama, in his initial statement applauding the Supreme Court’s decision, which came in as he was flying to Africa, said he directed Attorney General Eric Holder to work with federal departments to implement the changes. When the Defense of Marriage Act lifts in 25 days, a number of federal agencies will widen their procedures to include gay spouses.

Data Producer Elizabeth Shell outlined in a graphic15 federal benefits same-sex couples can now look forward to.

Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay advocacy group and a force involved in both the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, said in a statement that all federal rights for gay couples won’t be available immediately.

“Same-sex couples who are legally married and live in a marriage equality state should be eligible for the same rights, benefits, and protections afforded to straight married couples, virtually right away. But because the more than 1,100 federal rights and responsibilities of marriage are administered by many different federal agencies – many with different rules about which state’s laws they look to in determining if a marriage is valid – it is possible that legally married lesbian and gay couples living in a state that does not recognize their marriage may not have access to certain benefits, at least for the time being.”

Specifically, some departments of the federal government have clear policies on how they interpret marriage. For instance, when it comes to immigration policy, it only matters where a marriage was celebrated, regardless of where a couple lives. Alan Gomez of USA Today reported that gay and lesbian couples will be able to get visas for their foreign spouses.

The Pentagon released an outline of its changes. In short, the Defense Department will update ID cards and provide them for civilian spouses, and extend the same medical, dental and housing benefits to same-sex civilian spouses that straight partners receive. The department will also amend its burial policies at Arlington National Cemetery.

Other sections of the government, such as with Social Security, are more unclear, according to Mary Bonauto, counsel with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. These sorts of differences could affect couples across state lines from one another, federal workers and members of the military, who are often transferred around the country.

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times explored the “thicket of conflicting state and local laws” still facing gay couples following Wednesday’s rulings:

But would-be recipients of Social Security survivors’ benefits could run into trouble if they have moved since getting married. Eligibility for survivors’ benefits depends on where the potential recipient lived at the time he or she applied. So unless the Obama administration can find enough legal room in the Windsor decision to give it the authority to change how Social Security benefits are administered, some same-sex couples will be left without spousal benefits.

The same could be true of veterans’ surviving spouses. Veterans’ benefits determinations are made based on the law of the state where the couple lived either at the time of the marriage or when the right to the benefit accrued.

Beyond Social Security and veterans’ benefits, there will still be conflicts in myriad other federally administered programs, from filing taxes to eligibility for family medical leave. But because changes in how those are administered would not require an act of Congress, the Obama administration may be able to make the necessary adjustments with the stroke of a pen.

Soon after the ruling, California Gov. Jerry Brown said that all 58 counties could begin once again performing same-sex marriages “as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted.” The Sacramento Bee has the details. Because of Supreme Court procedure, that means 25 days. California Attorney General Kamala Harris urged for same-sex marriages in the state to resume “immediately.”

It’s unclear if Proposition 8’s supporters will be able to mount another legal challenge or curtail the court’s ruling to apply less than statewide. On a press call, their attorneys declined to say what the next step would be but assured listeners Proposition 8 would still be law.

Ray Suarez led off the NewsHour’s Wednesday broadcast with a report looking at the coast-to-coast reaction to the court’s rulings in the two cases.

And Jeffrey Brown spoke with Bonauto, an attorney who’s litigated DOMA cases for years and who has become an icon in the gay marriage movement. She joined Austin Nimocks, of Alliance Defending Freedom and co-counsel for the Proposition 8 proponents’ case.

Each explained what happens next in federal and California governments, and for their causes.

Watch the segment here or below:


Watch Ray’s report and Marcia Coyle’s legal analysis of the decisions here or below.


And don’t miss our terrific live blog rounding up reaction and consequences, manned by Politics Online Production Assistant Meena Ganesan.

NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels captured the scene outside San Francisco City Hall Wednesday morning as the decisions were announced.

For our full, in-depth Supreme Court coverage of the 2012-2013 term, visit our page.


  • The border security compromise passed in the Senate Wednesday, setting up final passage for Friday before the Fourth of July recess. Reuters’ Caren Bohan looked ahead to Rep. Paul Ryan’s role attempting to sell immigration reform to House Republicans.
  • Ben Pershing rounded up how the marriage ruling matters in Virginia’s gubernatorial contest.
  • The Washington Post tracks Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis’ overnight political stardom after the epic abortion debate. And Gwen talked with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune for our segment.
  • Emily Cahn writes for Roll Call that the special House race to replace Democratic Sen.-elect Ed Markey in Massachusetts will get crowded.
  • In his debut for the paper of record, the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin looks at the changing demographics of the South in light of Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision striking down a key part of the Voting Rights Act.
  • A top donor to Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, is heading a new super PAC that plans to spend upwards of $5 million focusing the debate in the Democrat’s 2014 re-election race on “Alaska issues.”
  • Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a comic book based on her life story out this week.
  • BuzzFeed’s running of the interns, which shows young Washington aides sprinting with the Supreme Court’s rulings in hand, is fabulous.
  • Rusty the Red Panda’s father is nicknamed Strom Thurmond.
  • The final score in the Congressional Women’s Softball Game: Bad News Babes 11, members of Congress 8. That’s right, the press team kept the trophy for the second straight year. During the game, Christina played right field for one inning, scored a run, advanced two runners, and didn’t embarrass herself. Emily Heil wrote for the Post that the game seems “grown up” in its fifth year.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • For Science Wednesday, Rebecca Jacobson pulled together a look at how the evolution of our bone structure made the fastball possible.
  • Reporter Producer Allie Morris explains how social media played into Texas’ abortion debate.
  • What investment is safer than U.S. Treasury bonds and fits Mr. Obama’s energy plan?
  • Frontline looks at how states are already moving to adopt new voter ID laws following Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling on voting rights.











Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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