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Greater Protections for Same-Sex Couples
By Gautam Raghavan
We understand your interest in the petition to allow full federal recognition for gay and lesbian couples married under state law, a goal that President Obama shares. Unfortunately, in 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which explicitly defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, and prevents the President and the executive branch from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples for federal purposes.
Despite these restrictions, the President has directed his Administration to take significant steps to provide federal benefits and protections to same-sex couples. For instance, the President issued a presidential memorandum requiring that all hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding – most hospitals in the United States – must provide equal visitation rights to gay and lesbian partners. He also has directed that federal benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees be extended to the extent possible under law. And the President has long called for repeal of DOMA, and he supports the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that is currently pending in both Houses of Congress. In early November, the Respect for Marriage Act was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Were that bill to become law, all same-sex couples legally married under state law would be eligible to receive federal benefits that depend on marriage. And finally, earlier this year, the President and the Attorney General announced their determination that Section 3 of DOMA, which requires that federal law define marriage only as a legal union between a man and a woman,is unconstitutional. The President instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending the constitutionality of that provision in the courts, and since that time, the Department has informed courts that it believes that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.
President Obama's strong support for equal rights for gay and lesbian couples is in line with his personal commitment to equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as well as his Administration's record. That's why, early in his administration, the President signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, expanding the existing hate crimes law to include crimes committed based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That's why the President signed into law the repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell”, ending the decades-long struggle to allow gays and lesbians to serve in the armed forces without having to lie about who they are. And that's why the President recently issued a Presidential Memorandum articulating the first-ever U.S. Government strategy to protect and promote the human rights of LGBT people internationally. These are just some of the steps the Obama Administration has taken to secure equality for LGBT people, and we look forward to working with you to make further progress.
Thank you for participating in this important process, and for your commitment to equality – a commitment which President Obama shares.
For more information on President Obama's policies regarding the LGBT community, check out WhiteHouse.gov/LGBT and sign up for updates.
Gautam Raghavan is an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement
We wanted to share with you an update on this important issue.
On May 9th, 2012, in an interview with ABC News, President Obama said, "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
With that one statement, he made it clear that he believes that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships from getting married.
Obviously, the President has spent time giving this issue serious consideration, and his view has been shaped by conversations with his family, his friends, neighbors, and the people who work with him at the White House.
In the interview, he said that he had discussed the issue around the dinner table with his wife and daughters. He said he'd heard from service members who, even after the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, felt constrained because they aren't allowed to get married.
And in the end, the President said, he believes it's important to "treat others the way you would want to be treated."