US President Barack Obama yesterday praised the US Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage as a “victory for American democracy” and said recognition for same-sex unions should cross state lines.
Obama’s remarks came in his first stop on a planned weeklong African tour, in a country that outlaws homosexuality. He said while he respects differing religious views on the matter, he wants to send a message to Africans as well about the importance of nondiscrimination under the law.
“People should be treated equally and that’s a principal that I think applies universally,” he said.
Obama spoke at a news conference after a private meeting with Senegalese President Macky Sall, in which Obama said gay rights did not come up.
Sall responded that Senegal is “a very tolerant country” and anti-gay laws are not being prosecuted, “but we are still not ready to decriminalize homosexuality,” adding that “does not mean we are homophobic.”
Obama said he was directing his administration to comb through every federal statute to quickly determine the implications of Wednesday’s ruling, which gave the US’ legally married gay couples equal federal footing with all other married US citizens.
He said he wants to make sure that gay couples who deserve benefits under the law get them quickly.
Obama said he personally believes that gay couples legally married in one state should retain their benefits if they move to another state that does not recognize gay marriage.
“I believe at the root of who we are as a people as Americans is the basic represent that we are all equal under the law,” he said. “We believe in basic fairness and what I think yesterday’s ruling signifies is one more step towards ensuring that those basic principles apply to everybody.”
Obama also offered prayers for former South African president Nelson Mandela, who is gravely ill, ahead of Obama’s planned visit to his country this weekend. Obama credited Mandela’s example in the anti-apartheid movement of being willing to sacrifice his life for a belief in equal treatment with inspiring Obama’s own political activism.
“If and when he passes from this place, his legacy is one that will linger on throughout the ages,” Obama said.
Thousands of boisterous revelers welcomed Obama’s motorcade yesterday morning in Dakar, cheering and waving homemade signs.