By Carol E. Lee
The White House is moving quickly to clarify a line in First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign stump speech that suggests she is perhaps more supportive of gay marriage than her husband.
President Barack Obama, daughter Sasha and the first lady walk across Lafayette Park on their way to church on Sunday.
Mrs. Obama has for months touted that President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees will weigh in on decisions that will determine whether Americans can “love whomever they choose.” But the phrase is gaining fresh attention after Mrs. Obama used it during remarks at two fundraisers Monday night in New York. The spotlight also comes as Democrats are pressuring Mr. Obama to endorse gay marriage before the November election.
Many gay rights activists expect the legalization of gay marriage, which has most notably been under dispute in court in California, will ultimately make its way to the Supreme Court.
White House officials said Tuesday that in saying “love whomever they choose” Mrs. Obama was not alluding to gay marriage. White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters she was referring to Mr. Obama’s opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA — the federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman – and Mrs. Obama’s communications director, Kristina Schake, also issued a statement stressing the same.
“That line in the First Lady’s remarks has been in her campaign speeches since last summer and refers to the importance of the Supreme Court for deciding many issues,” Ms. Schake said. “The president and first lady firmly believe that gay and lesbian Americans and their families deserve legal protections and the ability to thrive just like any other family. The first lady has said she is proud of the president’s accomplishments for gay and lesbian Americans on a range of issues, including repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, ensuring hospital visitation rights and calling for the repeal of DOMA.”
Mrs. Obama typically works the phrase into her speech like this: “And let’s not forget what it meant when my husband appointed those two brilliant Supreme Court justices, and for the first time in history, our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court,” she said in New York Monday night. “But more importantly, let’s not forget the impact their decisions will have on our children’s lives for decades to come – on their privacy and security; on whether they can speak freely, worship openly, and love whomever they choose. But that is what’s at stake. That’s the choice that we’re – that’s what we’re working for.”
Mrs. Obama has used the line numerous times, although it did not appear in her remarks at a fundraiser earlier this month to benefit the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Some prominent Democrats, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is chairman of the 2012 convention, have said support for gay marriage should be part of the party platform when Mr. Obama accepts the nomination in Charlotte.