President Barack Obama was asked Thursday during a town hall meeting in Tampa, Fla., about what he was doing to ensure that same-sex couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples. Instead of focusing on providing equal access to the institution of marriage, Obama highlighted legislation in Congress that would provide certain benefits for the partners of federal employees.
From the White House transcript:
Question: All right, I'm Hector and I'm a student at UT. (Applause.) And my question is, last night you talked about repealing "don't ask, don't tell," and my question is what are you doing now to put in motion so that same-sex couples and homosexuals are treated as equal citizens of the United States, i.e., same-sex marriages and the thousand-plus benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy after marriage? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Look, as I said last night, my belief is, is that a basic principle in our Constitution is that if you're obeying the law, if you're following the rules, that you should be treated the same, regardless of who you are. (Applause.) I think that principle applies to gay and lesbian couples. So at the federal level, one of the things that we're trying to do is to make sure that partnerships are recognized for purposes of benefits so that hospital visitation, for example, is something that is permitted; that Social Security benefits or pension benefits or others, that same-sex couples are recognized in all those circumstances.
I think that we've got to -- we actually have an opportunity of passing a law that's been introduced in Congress right now, and my hope is this year we can get it done, just for federal employees and federal workers. A lot of companies, on their own, some of the best-run companies have adopted these same practices. I think it's the right thing to do and it makes sense for us to take a leadership role in ensuring that people are treated the same. (Applause.)
Look, if you are -- regardless of your personal opinions, the notion that somebody who's working really hard for 30 years can't take their death benefits and transfer them to the person that they love the most in the world and who has supported them all their lives, that just doesn't seem fair. It doesn't seem right. (Applause.) And I think it's the right thing to do.