Published May 15, 2012
President Obama openly spoke of repealing the Defense of Marriage Act at a fundraiser Monday, as he defended his personal view that gay couples should have the right to marry.
While his administration has put out statements on the idea of repealing the 1996 federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, it's unusual for Obama to call for its repeal.
He did so Monday as one of a list of policy goals for what he hopes will be a second term, along with passing the immigration legislation known as the Dream Act, reforming Wall Street and investing in schools.
"We have never gone wrong when we expanded rights and responsibilities to everybody," Obama said. "That doesn't weaken families, that strengthens families."
The president was raising money before an audience of gay and lesbian supporters in New York, hosted by the LGBT Leadership Council and openly gay singer Ricky Martin, as well as Latino group The Futuro Fund. His comments at the fundraiser were his first to such an audience since he announced last week his personal support for gay marriage.
Obama's Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, says marriage is defined as being between a man and woman.
The Obama campaign, according to most accounts, was not originally planning to hit this issue this early in the season. But Vice President Biden, by personally voicing support for gay marriage more than a week ago, nudged the president along. Now, the two campaigns are diverging. Romney is focusing on the economy. And, for a change, the Democratic presidential campaign is hitting the social issues debate -- as some on the right urge Romney to return fire.
Earlier Monday, Obama was taping an appearance with The View, where his announcement last Wednesday also came up.
"A lot of this has to do with what's called the Defense of Marriage act," Obama said on the show. "It was passed originally when Hawaii started making noises about recognizing same sex marriage. The idea was we don't want that drifting into the federal government and this is part of the reason why my justice department has said to the courts, we don't think the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional. This is something that historically had been determined at the state level."
The Justice Department said in February 2011 that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts because the department deemed it unconstitutional, a move that sparked outcry from House Republicans, who vowed to pursue their own legal defense of the law.
The president's recent schedule reflects a robust push by the Obama campaign to trumpet, not downplay, the president's decision last week to support same-sex marriage -- a historic first for a sitting U.S. president.
Even the commencement address Obama delivered at Barnard College in New York on Monday afternoon had a same-sex marriage tinge -- he shared the stage with Evan Wolfson, founder of the gay advocacy group Freedom to Marry, and touched on the issue briefly in his remarks.
"No matter who you love or what God you worship, you can still pursue happiness -- I will support you every step of the way," Obama said.
The campaign last week released a web video heralding the announcement, while casting Romney as "backwards on equality." The president went on to raise nearly $15 million Thursday night from donors attending a campaign event at George Clooney's house.
The president's events Monday effectively pick up where he left off last week.
Romney and the Republican National Committee, though, are sticking to the issues of the economy and spending. The Republican National Committee released a new web video Monday slamming Obama for his "broken promises" on deficits and debt.
Fox News' Wes Barrett and the Associated Press contributed to this report.