President Obama Admits That He Thinks Gay Marriage Is a Constitutional Right

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When President Obama announced, in May of 2012, that he supported gay marriage, he was taking a political risk (albeit, at that point, a small one), and he sought to mitigate that risk by watering down his prescription for how the issue of marriage equality should be decided.

"I continue to believe that this is an issue that is gonna be worked out at the local level, because historically, this has not been a federal issue, what's recognized as a marriage," he told ABC News's Robin Roberts.

In other words, while he personally supported the right of gay people to marry, he believed that each state should be free to craft their own marriage laws. Consequently, nobody could claim that Obama wanted to overturn the gay-marriage bans passed by the God-fearing citizens of, say, North Carolina or Virginia.

But the election is over, Obama isn't running again, and he's ready to let us in on a little secret: He actually thinks gay marriage is a Constitutional right.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Do you still believe that, or do you now believe that gay marriage is a right guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
Well, I’ve gotta tell you that– in terms of practical politics, what I’ve seen is a healthy debate taking place state by state, and not every state has the exact same attitudes and cultural mores. And I– you know, my thinking was that this is traditionally a state issue and– that it will work itself out.

On the other hand– what I also believe is that the core principle that people don’t get discriminated against– that’s one of our core values. And it’s in our constitution. It’s in– the– you know, 14th Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause. And– from a legal perspective, the– the– the bottom line is, is that gays have historically been discriminated against and I do think that courts have to apply what’s called heightened scrutiny, where they take a careful look. If there’s any reason for– gays and lesbians to be treated differently, boy, the government better–

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
So banning gay marriage–

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
–have a really good–

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
–is discrimination?


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
Well, what I– what I believe is that– if– if the states don’t have a good justification for it, then it probably doesn’t stand up to constitutional muster

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Can you imagine one?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
So– well, I can’t, personally. I cannot. That’s part of the conc– reason I said, ultimately, I think that– you know, same-sex couples should be able to marry. That’s my personal position. And, frankly, that’s the position that’s reflected– in the briefs that we filed– in the Supreme Court. My hope is that– the Court looks at the evidence and– and in the California case, for example, the only reason presented for treating gays and lesbians differently was, “Well, they’re gay and lesbian.” There wasn’t– a real rationale beyond that. In fact– you know, all the other– rights and– and– responsibilities of– a civil union were identical to marriage.

It’s just you couldn’t call it marriage. Well, at that point, what you’re really sayin’ is– “We’re just gonna treat these folks differently because of who they are.” And– and I do not think– that’s– that’s who are as Americans. And– and frankly, I think– American attitudes have evolved, just like mine have– pretty substantially and fairly quickly, and I think that’s a good thing.

Obama's views didn't really "evolve." He supported gay marriage all the way back in 1996, but changed his mind out of political expedience. Then, when gay marriage became politically acceptable, he reverted back to his former position, but framed it as a state issue even though he believed it was actually a constitutional right. It's cute that he's sticking with the evolution line, though.