Appearing Thursday at town hall meeting in Tampa, President Barack Obama took a question from a young University of Tampa student on the Administration's strategy for obtaining equal benefits for gay and lesbian couples. The question dove-tailed Obama's discussion of gay rights in the State of the Union Address.
The President avoided discussing marriage or the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevents the federal government from granting benefits to or recognizing same-sex couples. Obama pivoted to the bill to provide federal benefits to same-sex partners.
QUESTION: All right, I'm Hector and I'm a student at UT. 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?
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. 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.
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. And I think it's the right thing to do.
The bill in question: The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations (DPBO) Act recently introduced by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Aetna) and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to grant same-sex benefits for the nation's largest employer. Meanwhile: The Administration is obviously "defending" DOMA more than trying to "repeal" it ...
Notice how supportive the crowd was of the student's question. Obama ends his reply with the same phrase he used in the SOTU: "It's the right thing to do." Via Firedoglake, watch it AFTER THE JUMP ...