President Obama, although he still supports civil unions over same-sex marriage, said yesterday that he believes the Defense of Marriage Act should be repealed.
“Repealing DOMA, getting ENDA [a bill to protect LGBT people from discrimination] done, those are things that should be done,” Obama told The Advocate the night before signing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal into law. “I think those are natural next steps legislatively. I’ll be frank with you, I think that’s not going to get done in two years. We’re on a three- or four-year time frame unless there’s a real transformation of attitudes within the Republican caucus.”
The federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed in 1996, defines marriage as strictly heterosexual. It’s currently facing multiple legal challenges, including two cases from Massachusetts in which a federal judge already ruled that part of the law is unconstitutional. Obama’s Justice Department is defending DOMA.
In the interview, Obama’s first one-on-one with an LGBT news outlet as President, reporter Kerry Eleveld asked him if he’d consider just dropping the defense.
“I have a whole bunch of really smart lawyers who are looking at a whole range of options,” Obama said. “My preference wherever possible is to get things done legislatively because I think it gains a legitimacy, even among people who don’t like the change, that is valuable.”
“So with ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I have such great confidence in the effective implementation of this law because it was repealed [legislatively]. We would have gotten to the same place if the court order had made it happen, but I think it would have engendered resistance,” he added. “So I’m always looking for a way to get it done if possible through our elected representatives. That may not be possible in DOMA’s case. That’s something that I think we have to strategize on over the next several months.”
The DOJ continued defending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell from legal challenges even as Obama tried to get the law repealed.
Obama also hinted, again, that his personal views on gay marriage may change.
“I’m wrestling with this. My attitudes are evolving on this. I have always firmly believed in having a robust civil union that provides the rights and benefits under the law that marriage does,” he said.
“What I know is that at minimum, a baseline is that there has to be a strong, robust civil union available to all gay and lesbian couples,” he said.