Obama's gay rights mention in inaugural speech 'right direction'
President Obama made strong statements Monday in his inaugural address in support of gay marriage, leaving gay rights supporters hopeful that his words will translate into Supreme Court action.
"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well," Obama said.
During the last year, the president has said he personally supports gay marriage but that the issue needs to be decided on a state-by-state basis. Currently, nine states authorize same-sex marriages.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two gay marriage cases in late March, both posing questions about equal rights for same-sex couples.
In the second case concerning California’s Proposition 8, the court will consider the much broader question of whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry. So far, the administration has not weighed in on the question. And because it is a state case, the Justice Department could stand aside and not take part.
The administration has until late February to decide whether to file a brief in the California case and take a stand on whether the Constitution gives gays and lesbians an equal right to marry. Lawyers close to the administration say the final decision will be made at the White House, not the Justice Department.
In West Hollywood on Monday, Michael Levine, 49, and Brian Mazurkiewicz, 47, were out walking their dogs after listening to Obama’s speech.
"I don't know how the Supreme Court can sit there with public opinion turning and then turn in the opposite direction," said Levine.
If gay marriage is legalized it doesn't necessarily mean the pair, who have been partners for 13 years, will get married.
However, they would want to have the option and have their relationship legally recognized, Levine said.
Obama has expressed his support for marriage equality in the past, said Lisa Barnes, 29, of Los Angeles.
"He hasn't really said it on a platform of that magnitude," Barnes said. "It's a step in the right direction, and hopefully we'll all have equal rights soon."
-- David Savage in Washington D.C. and Adolfo Flores in West Hollywood