History in the high court

Obama on marriage ruling: Court rights a wrong; country better off

Staff and Wire Reports

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama hailed the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday, declaring the court “has righted a wrong, and our country is better off for it.”

Obama decided in 2011 to stop defending the 1996 law, concluding that it was legally indefensible.

In a statement issued while he was flying on Air force One to Africa Wednesday, Obama said he had directed Attorney General Eric Holder to work with others in his administration to make sure federal law reflects the court’s decision.

I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.

This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents’ marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved on es treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better.

So we welcome today’s decision, and I’ve directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.

On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital. How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.

The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.

Obama’s statement came moments after he telephoned his congratulations to gay rights advocate Chad Griffin and plaintiffs in a California gay marriage case.

Press secretary Jay Carney, speaking with reporters traveling on the presidential aircraft with Obama, said White House staff people were “monitoring news of the decision online” from Air Force One.

He said the moment there had been word of the ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, invalidating the section defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, the presidential jet lost Internet and cable connectivity.

Carney said staff members at the Executive Mansion phoned Air Force One with additional details about the rulings and said that Obama spoke with White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler.

The spokesman said Obama put Griffin and the plaintiffs’ legal team on speaker phone told and told them that “today’s ruling is a victory,” even if the high court did not directly address the constitutionality of Proposition 8.

“Through your courage, you’re helping out a whole lot of people.” Obama told them.

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