President Obama expressed optimism about the advancement of marriage equality during an MTV interview on Friday, but maintained the issue should be left to the states and federal legislation isn’t the appropriate path forward.
Asked by MTV presenter Sway Calloway how the president “will see thing through,” Obama alluded to his personal support for marriage equality, which he announced in May, saying he dropped support for civil unions after conversations with gay couples because “if you’re somehow singling them out, they don’t feel true equality.”
But Obama emphasized marriage should be decided at the state level, and passing federal legislation would that institute marriage equality throughout would be the wrong course of action.
“Historically, marriages have been defined at the state level,” Obama said. “There’s a conversation going on. New York has moved forward with one set of ideas. There’s some other states that are still having that debate, I think for us to try to legislate federally into this area is probably the wrong way to go.”
Obama’s position is consistent with many legal experts who also support same-sex marriage, but say federal legislation would be unconstitutional because it would disregard the nation’s tradition of allowing states to decide who can marry within their borders.
But Obama did say he’d like to see federal action against the Defense of Marriage Act, a law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriage that he said should be repealed and has declined to defend in court. The president said he expects the courts will overturn DOMA.
“There are a couple of cases that are working their way through the courts, and my expectation is the Defense against Marriage Act will be overturned,” Obama said.
And Obama expressed optimism that states would act in a way to recognize “everybody fairly” if the decision of same-sex marriage was left for them to decide.
“But ultimately, I believe that if we have that conversation at the state level, the evolution that’s taking place in this country will get us to a place where we are going to be recognizing everybody fairly,” Obama said.
Perhaps in recognition that he’s addressing a younger audience on MTV, Obama predicted that young people — who are shown in polls to overwhelming support same-sex marriage — would be the ones to drive the issue.
“What’s really going to change this is the fact that young people, their attitudes, I think, are going to reflect the future instead of the past,” Obama said.
Watch the clip of the MTV interview here: