White House Faces Gay Marriage Court Deadline
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And also this, President Obama's administration faces another deadline this week, to file a written argument in a Supreme Court case involving gay marriage. Now, in a separate case last week, the administration told the High Court it should strike down a law that bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
This case asked the Court if there is a constitutional right for gays and lesbians to marry nationwide. The president addressed that issue last week on KGO television in San Francisco.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I have to make sure that I'm not interjecting myself too much into this process, particularly when we're not a party to the case. I can tell you, though, obviously my personal view, which is that I think that same-sex couples should have the same rights and be treated like everybody else.
INSKEEP: That's his personal view, he says. Now, even some supporters of gay marriage are not sure that a court case is the best way to achieve that goal.
OBAMA: NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Lee Schreter and her wife Delinda Bunnell have been a couple for 32 years, but Schrader says it was only two years ago that they actually tied the knot.
LEE SCHRETER: I jokingly told my friends and relatives, that after 30 years, I was finally ready to make a commitment.
HORSLEY: They planned to wed in California when that state briefly legalized same sex marriage, but those hopes were dashed when California voters passed a ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8. The Supreme Court now has to decide whether to leave that ban in place, allow gay marriage in California only, or give a green light to gay weddings nationwide.
Schrader and Banell ultimately wed in New York State. They did the whole kit and caboodle, Schrader says, a big church wedding for 100 family and friends.
SCHRETER: I don't think I appreciated, until we were both standing on the altar, how meaningful it could be. There's really something to being able to stand up in front of your friends and family, and the world for that matter, and be able to say that you love each other.
HORSLEY: Schrader says it would be even better if the couple's marriage were recognized in Georgia where they live. So she was delighted when the president delivered a ringing endorsement of same sex unions during his inaugural address last month.
(SOUNDBITE OF INAUGERAL SPEECH)
OBAMA: For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love that we commit to one another must be equal as well.
SCHRETER: I never expected in my lifetime that I would see an American president come out and support gay/lesbian couples and support gay marriage.
HORSLEY: Schreter hopes the administration Supreme Court brief will be equally forceful in defending gay marriage as a constitutional right. But not everyone agrees, even among those who want to see same sex marriage legalized nationwide.
JONATHAN RAUCH: I think the best thing that the Supreme Court could do for gay rights right now would be to duck this case and stay out of it.
HORSLEY: That's Jonathan Rauch, the author of "Gay Marriage: Why It's Good For Gays, Good For Straights and Good For America." He understands the frustration many gay couples have with the patchwork of state marriage laws. His own marriage to his husband Michael is not recognized in Virginia where they live. But now that same sex marriage is finally winning at the ballot box after years of losses, Rauch argues it's better to proceed through the political process, not the courts, especially since marriage is a social contract that draws strength from community support.
RAUCH: Marriage is more than just a certificate from the government. We get married in the eyes of our community. Every day, more Americans come around to thinking, you know what, gay marriage is a good idea because it's - gay people are good in families, and that's what we risk diminishing if we take a judicial shortcut right now.
HORSLEY: Obama himself has expressed some sympathy for this kind of view. In his book, "The Audacity of Hope," he cautioned progressives against relying too heavily on courts, rather than winning over popular opinion. Obama also told ABC last year, allowing states to reckon with gay marriage at their own pace is a healthy process.
OBAMA: And I continue to believe that this is an issue that is going to be worked out at the local level, because historically this has not been a federal issue.
HORSLEY: At the same time, the president has acknowledged, asking gays and lesbians to be patient can sound as hollow as those who counseled patience to African-Americans half a century ago. Georgia newlywed Lee Schrader says she sometimes has to pinch herself at just how quickly public attitudes towards gay marriage has shifted, but she adds if you ask young people today, they'll say it's not fast enough.
Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.