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What Difference Will Presidential Support Of Same-Sex Marriage Make To Prop 8?

Evening Edition

Above: Matt Stephens, an LGBT civil rights lawyer, and Jennifer Roback Morse, spokesperson for the National Organization for Marriage, discuss whether President Obama's support for same-sex marriage will affect Prop 8.

Aired 5/10/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guests

Matt Stephens, partner in the San Diego Progressive Law Group and instructor of constitutional law at UCSD. He's been working on LGBT civil rights for a decade.

Jennifer Roback Morse, PhD, founder of the Ruth Institute and a spokesperson for the National Organization for Marriage

Transcript

President Barack Obama's declaration of support for same-sex marriage was greeted by celebrations among gay activists in San Diego and across California.

Matt Stephens, a partner in the San Diego Progressive Law Group who has been working on LGBT civil rights for a decade, said the president's announcement could also help the legal cause of Proposition 8, which is working its way through the appeal process.

That's because Obama's change of heart will "lend support to any judge who might be on the fence for personal reasons," Stephens said.

Jennifer Roback Morse, spokesperson for the National Organization for Marriage and founder of the anti-gay marriage Ruth Institute, agreed that the president has power to influence marriage policy.

"As the chief executive officer of the United States of America, President Obama has the power to do a lot of things to move things in that direction, and in fact, to be honest, he already has," she said. She said Obama refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which she said it was his responsibility to uphold.

She added that Obama's decision on same-sex marriage has "energized the base," bringing increased support for presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney by people who had lukewarm feelings toward him before.

Roback said gay marriage should not be allowed because it conflicts with the "essential public purpose of marriage."

"I think the essential public purpose of marriage, as opposed to all the private purposes and private reasons people have for getting married, is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another," she said. "If you didn't need to get that purpose done, I don't think anyone would have ever thought of lifelong sexual exclusivity or recognizing certain relationships as being special and different for mothers. If not for that purpose, you wouldn't have marriage at all."

Stephens said the reason Obama left room for each state to define marriage is "to give people room to evolve."

"The conversation will continue, but there has to be a federal baseline of rights," he said. "You can't distinguish a class of people and make them less valued at the hands of their state."

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