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On Same-Sex Marriage, Many Think Obama May Shift Again

Publication Date: 
May 24, 2012
The Washington Post
Sandhya Somashekhar

Professor Michael W. McConnell spoke with Sandhya Somashekhar of the Washington Post on the Defense of Marriage Act and state's rights.

Supporters and critics of President Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage agree on one thing: He may not be finished evolving on the subject. Despite his comments that he thinks the matter should be left to the states, many gay rights advocates strongly believe that it must be dealt with nationally - and that Obama is quietly on their side. Conservative critics of the president suspect the same, citing this as one way the president might tack left if reelected.

And some Obama supporters who are uncomfortable with same-sex marriage fear that in a second term, he would come under enormous pressure to back efforts to impose the legalization of such unions at the federal level.


Before he announced his support for same-sex marriage, Obama ended restrictions against gays serving openly in the military, and his Justice Department said it would no longer defend in court the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bans federal recognition of same-sex unions. The administration said the law violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution, an argument that some say conflicts with the view that states should decide. "If you believe the matter should be left to the states, that means you think the Constitution permits the states to take a different view," said Michael McConnell, a constitutional law professor at Stanford University. "I don't see how that can be squared with Attorney General [Eric H.] Holder's claim" that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.