Evolution complete: President Obama backs constitutional right to marriage equality for first time

Two years after announcing marriage equality support, the president completes his evolution

By Luke Brinker

Published October 20, 2014 3:39PM (EDT)

                           (AP/Susan Walsh)
(AP/Susan Walsh)

It's been more than two years since President Barack Obama announced his support of marriage equality, becoming the first sitting president to endorse same-sex couples' right to marry. There was, however, an asterisk: Obama did not back a constitutional right to marriage equality, but instead argued that same-sex marriage should be left up to the states.

That seems to have changed. In a new interview with the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin, Obama declares that the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause requires nothing less than marriage equality in all 50 states.

“Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all fifty states,” Obama tells Toobin. “But, as you know, courts have always been strategic. There have been times where the stars were aligned and the Court, like a thunderbolt, issues a ruling like Brown v. Board of Education, but that’s pretty rare. And, given the direction of society, for the Court to have allowed the process to play out the way it has may make the shift less controversial and more lasting."

While the Supreme Court stopped short of such a declaration last year, when it declined to rule on the constitutionality of California's same-sex marriage ban, lower courts have cited the equal protection clause in striking down a series of state marriage equality bans.

As for the president, it appears that his much-ballyhooed "evolution" on marriage equality is finally complete.

Luke Brinker

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