POLITICS
10/20/2014 09:22 am ET Updated Oct 20, 2014

Obama: 'I Think The Equal Protection Clause Does Guarantee Same-Sex Marriage' In All States

President Barack Obama seems to have changed his tune on gay marriage, telling The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin he believes same-sex couples in all 50 states should be allowed to marry under the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Obama first publicly backed gay marriage in May 2012, but noted he thought the issue should be left to the states. Speaking with Toobin for the Oct. 27 issue of The New Yorker, Obama said the best Supreme Court decision since he took office was the recent rejection of gay marriage appeals from five states, a move the president said is "a consequential and powerful signal of the changes that have taken place in society and that the law is having to catch up."

While Obama said the high court "was not quite ready" to "indicate an equal-protection right across the board," he personally believes same-sex marriage is protected under that clause. From The New Yorker:

Obama opposed marriage equality until May of 2012. He told me that he now believes the Constitution requires all states to allow same-sex marriage, an argument that his Administration has not yet made before the Supreme Court. “Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all fifty states,” he said. “But, as you know, courts have always been strategic. There have been times where the stars were aligned and the Court, like a thunderbolt, issues a ruling like Brown v. Board of Education, but that’s pretty rare. And, given the direction of society, for the Court to have allowed the process to play out the way it has may make the shift less controversial and more lasting.

“The bulk of my nominees, twenty years ago or even ten years ago, would have been considered very much centrists, well within the mainstream of American jurisprudence, not particularly fire-breathing or ideologically driven,” Obama went on. “So the fact that now Democratic appointees and Republican appointees tend to vote differently on issues really has more to do with the shift in the Republican Party and in the nature of Republican-appointed jurists ... Democrats haven’t moved from where they were.”

The federal government has extended federal benefits to same-sex married couples in states where gay marriage has been legalized, most recently giving benefits to those in the five states where the gay marriage appeals were rejected.

Read Toobin's entire piece on Obama at The New Yorker.

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