Obama, Clinton Hail Gay Marriage Rights on Eve of Ruling

Obama, Clinton Hail Gay Marriage Rights on Eve of Ruling
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President Obama and Hillary Clinton Wednesday each found openings to publicly celebrate gay rights and marriage equality leading up to a June Supreme Court ruling that is widely expected to energize the 2016 political bloodstream, no matter how it comes down.

During an East Room event to celebrate LGBT Pride Month, Obama said, “We’re now awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling on whether same-sex couples nationwide have the equal right to marry,” adding that a verdict on a key element of the Affordable Care Act also hangs in the balance as the high court’s session comes to a close. 

“There are a few decisions coming down these next few days that I’m paying close attention to,” he confided to a raucous standing-room-only audience during a reception. 

Whether the Supreme Court affirms a federal right for same-sex couples to marry, “one thing is undeniable,” the president said. “There has been this incredible shift in attitudes across the country.”

Gay marriage was legal in two states when Obama was elected. At that time, the Illinois senator backed civil unions, but not gay marriage. His political wariness about states’ fast-moving judicial rulings fell away after Vice President Biden embraced gay marriage during an interview in 2012. Biden accompanied the president Wednesday.

“Today it’s legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia,” the president said to loud applause. “A decade ago, politicians ran against LGBT rights. Today they’re running toward them because they’ve learned what the rest of the country knows -- that marriage equality is about our civil rights, and our firm belief that every citizen should be treated equally under the law.” 

While the president sent the Supreme Court another overt message about the country’s evolving interpretations of same-sex marriage, legal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, as well as civil rights, his former secretary of state released a campaign video celebrating gay marriage as a “human right.” 

The video, using footage of a diverse assemblage of same-sex couples exchanging wedding vows accompanied by a swelling sound track, promotes Clinton’s candidacy using her words, drawn from speeches in which she’s declared gay rights to be human rights.

“Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct, but in fact they are one and the same,” she says in the video’s voiceover.

On the stump, the leading Democratic presidential candidate says as president she would be a “champion” and a “fighter” for Americans left behind. As was true during Obama’s presidential contests, the LGBT community is important to her donor base and to the grassroots organization her campaign is building nationwide.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking publicly June 15, was asked why racial equality has moved more slowly through the courts and society, compared with the torrent of changes tied to sexual orientation and gay rights.

“For gay people, once we find out they are people we know and we love and we respect and they are part of us, I think that accounts for the difference,” she said. “During the years when gay people hid who they were, there was a kind of discrimination that started to break down very rapidly once they no longer hid in the corner.” 

Ginsburg, who will be one of the justices to affirm a right for same-sex couples to marry, said the Supreme Court is “inevitably … affected by the climate of the era.” 

Obama echoed that idea.

“There are still battles to wage, more hearts and minds to change,” he said. “But if the people in this room and our friends and allies across the country have proven anything, it’s that even in the toughest of circumstances, against the greatest possible odds, in America, change is possible.  It’s in our hands.  Together, I know we’ll get there. Look how far we’ve already come.”

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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