Issue Pulse: Moving Closer to Marriage Equality

President Obama Joins Public and Political Support

President Obama joins the majority of Americans and policymakers from both parties by coming out in support for marriage equality.

President Barack Obama completed his “evolution” today by announcing his support for marriage equality, in an interview with ABC News’s Robin Roberts, saying in part:

But I have to tell you that, over the course of several years, as I talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed, monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together. When I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf, and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they’re not able to commit themselves in a marriage, 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.

President Obama’s announcement comes at a time when more and more Americans support marriage equality. Fifty-three percent of Americans currently believe that gay and lesbian couples should have the right to marry, and the number of those against it has dropped significantly since 1996, from 68 percent to 45 percent.

Similarly, an increasing number of politicians from both political parties have voiced their support for extending the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples. Let us take a look at some of these policymakers and see why they support marriage equality:

“[T]he good news is that, as more and more Americans come to understand what this is all about is a simple proposition: Who do you love? Who do you love, and will you be loyal to the person you love? And that’s what people are finding out is what all marriages at their root are about. Whether they’re marriages of lesbians, or gay men, or heterosexuals.”

“Look, I am Vice President of the United States of America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled [to] the same exact rights. All the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that.”

Vice President Joe Biden, during his May 6 appearance on “Meet the Press”

“Yes, I do.”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, confirming that he supports marriage equality during his May 7 appearance on “Morning Joe”

“Ensuring that all Americans are free to marry whomever they love will move our nation one step closer to becoming a more perfect union with liberty and justice for all. As Democrats, we know that the fight for equality is never easy, but it is always worthwhile.”

Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman John E. Walsh, May 2012

“In Texas we love all our families. We know to build a strong Democratic party and a strong Texas we must honor the core principles of our party and champion the full human rights of every citizen.”

Texas Democratic Party chairman Boyd Richie, in a May 2012 Freedom to Marry release

“[Questions about such decisions as raising taxes for the wealthy should be put to a popular vote.] But dear God, we should not be putting civil rights issues to a popular vote, to be subject to the sentiments, the passions of the day. No minority should have their rights subject to the passions and sentiments of the majority. This is a fundamental bedrock of what our nation stands for. And I get very concerned, that we have created in our state, and we refuse to address and call it like it is, that we’ve created a second-class citizenship in our state. That’s what we have in America right now.”

Newark, New Jersey, mayor Cory Booker on the possibility of a marriage equality referendum in New Jersey, January 2012

“It made me proud to be a New Yorker – not enough to get me to move back. We’ve got more work to do in the Obama administration in a second term. … like marriage equality.”

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan on the passage of New York’s marriage equality law, in a November 2011 interview with Metro Weekly

“I think freedom means freedom for everybody. And you ought to have the right to make whatever choice you want to make with respect to your own personal situation. … different states are going to come to different conclusions, but … I certainly don’t have any problem with it.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, when asked whether he thought marriage equality should become law on “The View,” September 13, 2011

“Well as you know, Dick and I have a daughter who is gay, with a wonderful partner named Heather and two wonderful grandchildren, Sam and Sarah. Just amazing kids, well loved, and I think that you know, whatever Mary and Heather decide to do is up to Mary and Heather.”

Lynne Cheney, when asked whether she supports marriage equality on “The View,” September 13, 2011

“There are some differences. I’m not running for anything ever again. At some point, you have to say what’s right’s right. I was being counseled to be kind of cute and say that civil unions were a good solution to the marriage question. But my wife and I finally decided that that wasn’t the same as marriage. I came home one night and my wife asked me a simple question: Did I really think that relationships such as the one my daughter and (her wife) Meaghan share is less deserving of marriage than ours? And the answer was clear – no, I didn’t. That’s what changed my position.”

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, on how his view of marriage equality compares to President Obama’s, and why his views changed in an interview with LGBT Weekly, February 2012

“The earth didn’t stop spinning. The moon didn’t fall into the pond. The people who live across the street are still the same people, except that they’re married.”

“At the end of the day, wherever I end up, we’ll have marriage equality in New York State. There isn’t anything you can point to in a political career, if you’re just looking over the years you served, that you can say was as big as this.”

Sen. Jim Alesi (R-NY), on why he voted for marriage equality in his state, 2012

The increasing cadre of political leaders—including President Obama—is an encouraging sign. But policymakers in Congress and judges on the federal bench must continue to take action to extend the rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples.

Legislatively, Congress should pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. Doing so would finally afford married same-sex couples the same access to the 1,138 federal benefits now enjoyed by different-sex couples. On the state level, state legislators should also pass marriage equality legislation to effectively grant same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities of marriage.

Judicially, the Supreme Court is likely to consider the constitutionality of marriage equality in any of the number of cases currently under their review, such as Perry v. Brown (the Proposition 8 case) or one of the many cases calling DOMA’s constitutionality into question.

The American public is increasingly in support of marriage equality. Now so too is President Obama. Equal treatment under the law and the freedom to marry the person you love are treasured American values. For gay and lesbian couples, our laws will soon reflect our values.

Meghan Miller is an Editorial intern with the Online Communications team at the Center for American Progress.

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Meghan Miller

Senior Editor