In a wide-ranging interview with George Stephanopoulos to air on Nightline tonight , President Obama talks about marriage equality and the cases ahead at the Supreme Court.
Asks Stephanopoulos: "Do you still believe that, or do you now believe that gay marriage is a right guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution?"
Obama (from transcript):
Well, I’ve gotta tell you that in terms of practical politics, what I’ve seen is a healthy debate taking place state by state, and not every state has the exact same attitudes and cultural mores. And I you know, my thinking was that this is traditionally a state issue and that it will work itself out. On the other hand, what I also believe is that the core principle that people don’t get discriminated against – that’s one of our core values. And it’s in our constitution. It’s in the, you know, 14th Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause. And...from a legal perspective, the bottom line is, is that gays have historically been discriminated against and I do think that courts have to apply what’s called heightened scrutiny, where they take a careful look. If there’s any reason for gays and lesbians to be treated differently, boy, the government better....have a really good...what I believe is that if the states don’t have a good justification for it, then it probably doesn’t stand up to constitutional muster."
"Can you imagine one?", asks Stephanopoulos:
I can’t, personally. I cannot. That’s part of the reason I said, ultimately, I think that, you know, same-sex couples should be able to marry. That’s my personal position. And, frankly, that’s the position that’s reflected in the briefs that we filed in the Supreme Court.
My hope is that– the Court looks at the evidence and and in the California case, for example, the only reason presented for treating gays and lesbians differently was, “Well, they’re gay and lesbian.” There wasn’t– a real rationale beyond that. In fact you know, all the other rights and and responsibilities of a civil union were identical to marriage. It’s just you couldn’t call it marriage. Well, at that point, what you’re really sayin’ is “We’re just gonna treat these folks differently because of who they are.” And I do not think that’s who are as Americans. And frankly, I think American attitudes have evolved, just like mine have, pretty substantially and fairly quickly, and I think that’s a good thing.
Excerpts from some other portions of the interview, AFTER THE JUMP...