White House Press Secretary Jay Carney gave a briefing to reporters aboard Air Force One as President Obama traveled to Senegal about the President's reaction to the marriage rulings from the Supreme Court which struck down DOMA and dismissed Proposition 8.
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 ones 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.
MR. CARNEY: So this is the only paper statement, only statement from the President on the Supreme Court decision on DOMA. So I'm just here to provide you that statement and also to tell you — which has been released at home — that the President made two phone calls from Air Force One after the ruling, after we were made aware of the rulings.
The first was to Edie Windsor. Edie is the plaintiff in United States v. Windsor in the Defense of Marriage Act. And the President congratulated her on this victory, which was a long time in the making, said he was heartened by the Court's decision to strike down Section 3 of DOMA so that loving, committed couples could enjoy full equality under the law. And, he said, that it is fitting that this historic ruling should come today, just 10 years after the Court struck down laws making same-sex relationships illegal in Lawrence v. Texas.
Separately, he called Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign, and the plaintiffs and legal team involved with the Proposition 8 case — it was one call on speaker phone — and congratulated them on a tremendous victory today. He noted that although the Court did not address the constitutionality of Proposition 8, today's ruling is a victory for Kris, Sandy, Paul and Jeff — these are plaintiffs in Prop 8 — and to all loving, committed couples in the state of California.
This is paraphrasing the President, but the President noted that the laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans have come to accept — we are all more free when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love. So he made those two calls. You had asked how he was made aware of it. I'm not sure if it was the case back here, but we lost connectivity right at the critical moment. We also lost Internet connectivity briefly. But we were able to learn via telephone.
Q Who called him?
MR. CARNEY: The President spoke with Kathy Ruemmler, White House Counsel. Before they spoke, we had gotten a call from White House staff in the office just first with the DOMA ruling, and then with the decision not to address the constitutionality of Prop 8.
Q Did he fist pump into the air or was there any sort of reaction?
MR. CARNEY: He was obviously pleased. He believes that this is a very good day for civil rights in our country and was just glad to see the decisions come down as they did.