President Barack Obama called yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage “a victory for American democracy” while saying federal lawyers are studying how to administer benefits in states that don’t recognize same-sex unions.
“It’s my personal belief” that a couple married in a state that recognizes gay marriage should be able to obtain federal benefits even if living in a state that doesn’t recognize such marriages, Obama said. “I’m speaking as a president, not as a lawyer.” Obama said he has directed federal lawyers to study the implications of the ruling.
Obama spoke at a news conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar, the first stop on his three-country visit to sub-Saharan Africa.
The news conference came a day after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a landmark victory for the gay-rights movement, struck down a federal law that denies benefits to same-sex married couples and cleared the way for weddings to resume in California.
In Senegal, homosexuality is a crime punishable by imprisonment.
Obama said while different countries have different cultural traditions, under the law “I believe that everybody has to be treated equally.”
Sall said his country is “not ready to decriminalize homosexuality,” while noting that Senegal does not practice capital punishment as does the U.S.
“We have different traditions,” Sall said.
Obama also criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down much of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, saying the court “didn’t recognize” the extent to which voter suppression is still a problem throughout the country. He said he’ll ask Congress to take steps to make voting easier.
“I might not be here as president” if not for the work behind the Voting Rights Act, that added protections for black voting rights, Obama said. “I think that the Supreme Court made a mistake in its ruling but that decision is now here.”
He said there are ‘other potential remedies,’’ and that a legal adviser will issue a report on how to make voting easier around the U.S. People should not have to “jump through a whole bunch of hoops” to be able to vote and there should be “uniformity” of ease throughout the country, Obama said.
The court’s 5-4 ruling nullified a requirement that all or parts of 15 states get federal clearance before changing their election rules or voting lines.
To contact the reporters on this story: Julianna Goldman in Dakar, Senegal at firstname.lastname@example.org; Margaret Talev in Dakar, Senegal at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at firstname.lastname@example.org