03/20/2012 12:57 pm ET Updated Mar 20, 2012

Michelle Obama: Supreme Court Will Impact Whether Americans Can 'Love Whomever We Choose'

First Lady Michelle Obama, campaigning for her husband at two fundraisers in New York City, said Monday that his Supreme Court picks will impact whether people can "love whomever we choose."

"Let us not forget about what it meant when my husband appointed those two magnificent Supreme Court justices," she said, referring to Sonia Sotomayor, who was nominated in 2009, and Elena Kagan, who joined the court in 2010.

"For the first time in history, our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seat on our nation’s highest court," she said to applause at Locanda Verde, an Italian restaurant in Tribeca at an event hosted by Robert DeNiro and his wife Grace Hightower. "And let us not forget what their decisions -- the impact those decisions will have on our lives for decades to come -- on our privacy and security, on whether we can speak freely, worship openly, and, yes, love whomever we choose." The line drew applause.

"But that’s what’s at stake. That's the choice that we face," she said.

She also used the same line earlier at the Chelsea Piers, at a fundraiser where she addressed 400 supporters who paid $150 each.

A case over California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, is widely expected -- though there are no guarantees -- to make its way to the Supreme Court. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the ban as unconstitutional by a 2-1 vote last February. However, the court sidestepped the issue of federalizing same-sex marriage and focused on the ballot proposition. Another case concerning the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act could also make its way to the high court.

White House Spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday she was referring to DOMA, not gay marriage. "That is a reference to the president's position on the Defense of Marriage Act," he said.

A spokesman for the first lady said in June 2011 that she had never made any public statements on gay marriage. A campaign official expanded on her comments to the Washington Post Tuesday. "This is something that’s always been a part of the first lady’s stump speech," said the official. "She’s referring to a range of legal rights, such as hospital visitation rights, and she’s in sync with the president on the issue." Indeed, the first lady has used similar language in the past.

President Barack Obama is still "evolving" on gay marriage but has opposed Proposition 8 and more recently, North Carolina's ballot proposition, Amendment One, which would add a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

UPDATE: Kristina Schake, Communications Director to First Lady Michelle Obama, explained the line. "That line in the First Lady's remarks has been in her campaign speeches since last summer and refers to the importance of the Supreme Court for deciding many issues. The President and First Lady firmly believe that gay and lesbian Americans and their families deserve legal protections and the ability to thrive just like any other family," she said. "The First Lady has said she is proud of the President’s accomplishments for gay and lesbian Americans on a range of issues, including repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, ensuring hospital visitation rights and calling for the repeal of DOMA. "