(CNSNews.com) - The wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told a crowd of homosexual activists last week that her husband wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and reverse the rule on homosexuals in the military. Michelle Obama also drew parallels with homosexual advocacy groups and the civil rights movement, referring to events "from Selma to Stonewall."
Speaking to the Democratic National Committee's Gay and Lesbian Leadership Committee last Thursday in New York City, Michelle Obama said her husband supports "a world where federal laws don't discriminate against same-sex relationships, including equal treatment for any relationship recognized under state law."
"That is why he supports robust civil unions," she said. "That is why he has said the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide for themselves how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples -- whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union or a civil marriage."
The Illinois senator has spoken little about homosexual issues on the campaign trail, but a position paper on his Web site http://tinyurl.com/5dhpx6 says that Obama wants to "fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure 1,100-plus federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally recognized unions."
The DOMA has two parts: one defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and the second part says a homosexual marriage in one state does not have to be recognized in another state.
Such a law could have added impetus since the California Supreme Court ruled last month to legally recognize homosexual marriages. Meanwhile, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, and New Hampshire have enacted legal unions for homosexual couples either through legislation or court order.
The absence of a federal law could mean that the more than 40 states that have bans -- either constitutional or in statute -- on same-sex marriage would be required to recognize a homosexual marriage license from another state as a legally binding contract.
Sen. Obama's position paper was likely referencing the federal definition provision that would extend Social Security and other government benefits to same-sex couples, said Lynn Wardle, a law professor at Brigham Young University. Nonetheless, this could effectively nationalize same-sex marriage, Wardle said.
"If a judge in San Francisco says 'for Social Security purposes, that's the law,' then a trial judge in San Francisco could affect the whole country," Wardle told Cybercast News Service.
"A marriage is valid where it's performed and valid everywhere, with one exception, if it violates public policy," she said. "As a political move, this would inevitably mean gay marriage in most states. It's a step in nationalizing gay marriage."
Republican presidential candidate John McCain voted for DOMA in 1996 as a federal law. However, the Arizona senator voted with Obama in opposing a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. McCain said his opposition was on grounds of federalism, believing that states should decide on the matter.
In 2006, McCain supported a proposed constitutional amendment in his home state of Arizona to define marriage as only for heterosexual couples, but the amendment failed on the November ballot.
McCain's Web site http://tinyurl.com/2n2xxj reads: "The family represents the foundation of Western Civilization and civil society and John McCain believes the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman. It is only this definition that sufficiently recognizes the vital and unique role played by mothers and fathers in the raising of children, and the role of the family in shaping, stabilizing, and strengthening communities and our nation."
Mrs. Obama began her New York speech praising the Lawrence v. Texas ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court five years ago that struck down Texas's anti-sodomy law, and said "same-sex couples would never again be persecuted through the use of criminal law."
In comparing the homosexual rights movement with civil rights, Mrs. Obama commented on how far things have come.
"We are all only here because of those who marched and bled and died, from Selma to Stonewall," Mrs. Obama said in reference to Selma, Ala., and the Stonewall Inn in New York City.
Selma, Ala., was the starting point in March 1965 for one of the most famous civil rights marches of the movement. The Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village, was the site of what many consider the start of the homosexual rights movement in June 1969, when gays and lesbians rioted against police officers.
She also said her husband believes in "a world where together we work to reverse discriminatory laws like DOMA and 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"
Mrs. Obama said her husband helped get protection for people qualified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender in the Illinois Human Rights Act when he was a state senator.
"In 2004, after hearing from gay friends and supporters about the hurtful impact of DOMA, Barack went on record during his U.S. Senate race and called for its complete repeal," she said. "And as a U.S. senator, he voted to protect our Constitution from the stain of discrimination by voting against the federal marriage amendment."
Mrs. Obama told the gathering her husband has taken this message even to religious groups. In a previous interview, Barack Obama said he believed that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount http://tinyurl.com/2m2z9z justified same-sex unions.