In an MTV interview on Friday, President Obama reiterated his support for the freedom to marry, recounted the many steps his Administration has taken to stand up for gay families and equality under the law, and shared some thoughts on how the law and history suggest America will end marriage discrimination. As founder and president of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide, I pay careful attention to what candidates - and certainly our President - say and do about marriage. And because some have expressed concern over specific nuances in the President's interview, let me note what we at Freedom to Marry heard and what we expect.
The freedom to marry is guaranteed to all Americans under the Constitution. The Supreme Court has said so at least 14 times, most notably in the best-named case ever, Loving v. Virginia, which ended the same-race restriction on who could marry whom, just as today we are working to end the different-sex restriction on loving and committed couples seeking to marry.
But we ended race restrictions on marriage, ultimately, in the Supreme Court, not Congress - and President Obama is right that the way we will best secure the constitutional guarantee of the freedom to marry is by setting the stage for national resolution in the Court by winning the freedom to marry in enough states (which issue marriage licenses) and winning over more hearts and minds, which creates the public support that emboldens elected officials and even judges to do the right thing. That is the Roadmap to Victory national strategy that Freedom to Marry is leading. It's what has paved the way to the progress we've seen. And it is the way we are going to win marriage nationwide.
The Roadmap to Victory calls for simultaneous work on three tracks: (1) growing the majority for marriage, (2) winning more states, and (3) ending federal discrimination (such as the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal respect and equal treatment to couples legally married in the states and countries we have won).
President Obama has shown moral leadership in, and thrown the weight of the presidency into, all three of these necessary tracks:
(1) Public Support - The President has spoken out in support of the freedom to marry with a heartfelt and personal explanation of how he changed his mind - talking about gay people he knows who are doing the work of marriage in their own lives; conversations he and the First Lady have had with Malia and Sasha about the girls' classmates, some of whom are being raised by gay parents; and the importance of being true to the values of fairness and the Golden Rule that he and Michelle - as parents, as people of faith - want to teach their daughters.
(2) States - In Freedom to Marry's top-priority push to win one or more of the marriage-related ballot-measures this November, the President just this past week - in the midst of his own campaign - again reiterated his call on voters to vote for the freedom to marry in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, and to defeat the anti-gay attack measure on the ballot in Minnesota.
(3) Federal - Upon determining that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is indefensible under the Constitution, the President and his Administration opposed it in court, and are at this very moment strongly advocating that DOMA be struck down in cases that may be taken up the Supreme Court in the coming year. President Obama's opposition to DOMA is nothing new; he was on the record as favoring its repeal as a candidate last time, and has steadily called for its overturning ever since. At Freedom to Marry's request, the President endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill that would repeal DOMA, and we fully expect that his Administration will work with Freedom to Marry in a second term to continue growing support for congressional repeal, even as the Administration joins our calls for the Supreme Court to follow the 10 federal rulings that have also concluded DOMA is unconstitutional.
Presidents can't wave a magic wand, but I am confident that the President will hear from Freedom to Marry if his Administration does not continue doing everything it can to advance us down the road to victory, and equally confident that President Obama will indeed do everything he can. As the President again repeated in the MTV interview: "I've been very clear about my belief that same-sex couples have to be treated before the eyes of the law the same way as heterosexual couples." Same means same, and that includes the freedom to marry nationwide and full respect under the law for the marriages of committed couples, gay or non-gay alike. Nothing the President said in the interview is inconsistent with that commitment - a commitment this President has honored in his first term, a commitment I am confident he will work with Freedom to Marry to fulfill and strategically pursue to victory if reelected.
Follow Evan Wolfson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/freedomtomarry