First Lady Michelle Obama: Supreme Court at stake in election

First Lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday put the Supreme Court at the core of President Barack Obama's argument for reelection, telling supporters that the vote in November could affect Americans' security, freedoms and whether they can "love whomever we choose" -- a reference to the fight over gay and lesbian rights.

"This President has brought us out of the dark and into the light," she said in a speech at a rally in Nashville. "I hope you all are fired up and ready to go."

Her comments came as Washington awaited a ruling from the nine justices on whether her husband's landmark health care law is constitutional. A decision could come in June.

"We cannot forget the impact the Court's decisions will have on our lives for decades to come — on our privacy and security, on whether we can speak freely, worship openly, and love whomever we choose," she said in a ringing defense of the president's record. Asked about similar statements in the past, the White House has denied that they reflect any newfound White House support for gay marriage. Kristina Schake, the First Lady's communications director, said Tuesday that it "refers to the importance of the Supreme Court for deciding many issues."

"The President and First Lady firmly believe that gay and lesbian Americans and their families deserve legal protections and the ability to thrive just like any other family," she said.

Obama press secretary Jay Carney, asked about similar comments from the First Lady in March, said she was specifically referring to the president's decision to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bars recognition of same-sex marriage.

With the presidential contest heating up, both sides are expected to warn their supporters that the stakes reach far beyond control of the White House for the next four years because the next president may be able to nominate at least one new justice to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.

"Let's not forget how my husband appointed those two brilliant Supreme Court justices," Michelle Obama said, referring to Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

"Let's not forget how, for the first time in history, our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seat on our nation's highest court," she said.

President Obama sometimes mentions the court at campaign events, but rarely in this level of detail.

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