Gay Marriage

Obama's Confusing Federalism: Gay Marriage, Yes; Medical Marijuana, No

The president has perplexing relationship with the Tenth Amendment


Which way leads to the Tenth Amendment?

We're going to need a scorecard to try to figure out when President Barack Obama believes in states' rights.

Despite raising gay marriage recognition as an equality issue in yesterday's inaugural address, today the White House clarified that Obama believes the matter properly belongs to the states. Via the Washington Blade:

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney maintained on Tuesday that President Obama's LGBT remarks in his inaugural speech weren't an attempt to nationalize the issue of marriage.

"The President believes that it's an issue that should be addressed by the states," Carney said in response to a question from Politico's Reid Epstein. …

Carney indicated that Obama's believes Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional based on the belief that the federal government shouldn't be involved in marriage.

"One the reasons why we believe that Section 3 of DOMA is not constitutional is because we should not addressing it in that way," Carney said.

The federal government is involved in marriage and will continue to be involved in marriage regardless of the existence of DOMA, so … huh? If DOMA is done away with, the federal government will have to recognize legal same-sex marriages in a whole host of government policies. Reporter Chris Johnson's transcript of Carney's comments at the end, though, doesn't actually say that Obama believes the government "shouldn't be involved in marriage" at all, so it may just be an awkward paraphrase on Johnson's part and not a sudden libertarian embrace by the administration.

In any event, the White House declaring that gay marriage is a state issue comes at odds with the way the Department of Justice is handling medical marijuana. As Mike Riggs noted earlier today, the Drug Enforcement Agency won a court fight to keep marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, which classifies it as highly addictive with no medical benefits. Thus, the DEA has cover to bust down the doors of medical marijuana dispensaries operating legally under state law, arrest and imprison people.

Why is gay marriage a state issue but medical marijuana is not?