WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama Wednesday morning telephoned his congratulations to the plaintiffs in a gay marriage case before the Supreme Court.
The White House later released a statement hailing the decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, declaring the court "has righted a wrong, and our country is better off for it."
Obama decided in 2011 to stop defending the 1996 law, concluding that it was legally indefensible.In a statement issued while he was flying on Air force One to Africa Wednesday, Obama said he had directed Attorney General Eric Holder to work with others in his administration to make sure federal law reflects the court's decision.
"This was discrimination enshrined in law," he said. "We are a people who declared that we are all created equal - and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."
Acknowledging that many Americans object to gay marriage on religious grounds, he stressed that nothing in the decision changes how religious institutions define and consecrate marriage.
His statement came moments after he telephoned his congratulations to gay rights advocate Chad Griffin and plaintiffs in a California gay marriage case.
"Through your courage, you're helping out a whole lot of people." Obama told them.
Press secretary Jay Carney, speaking with reporters traveling on the presidential aircraft with Obama, said White House staff people were "monitoring news of the decision online" from Air Force One. He said the moment there had been word of the ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, invalidating the section defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, the presidential jet lost Internet and cable connectivity.
Carney said staff members at the Executive Mansion phoned Air Force One with additional details about the rulings and said that Obama spoke with White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler.
The spokesman said Obama put Griffin and the plaintiffs' legal team on speaker phone told and told them that "today's ruling is a victory," even if the high court did not directly address the constitutionality of Proposition 8.
Earlier in the day, Obama telephoned gay rights advocate Chad Griffin, who had the couple in a California gay marriage case listen in.
The White House confirmed that Obama placed the call as he flew to Africa aboard Air Force One.