President Barack Obama on Wednesday said that the federal government should respect the marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

In an interview with Telemundo's Noticiero Telemundo, Obama said that he believes recognizing gay couples is not only right but also “consistent with our constitution.”

The interview arrives in the wake of the Supreme Court hearing two cases related to gay marriage. On Tuesday, the court heard oral arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California's 2008 voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as a heterosexual union. A second case heard on Wednesday seeks to invalidate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevents the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of gay couples.

“Well, I think, you know, there are two questions involved here,” Obama said. “The first question is whether the specific proposition in California is legal. And then the second is whether DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits the federal government from granting benefits to same-sex couples, even though the states where they live have said they're legally married – whether that's unconstitutional.”

“I think that not only is it right and fair, but also consistent with our constitution to recognize same-sex couples. It doesn't mean that everybody has to agree from a religious standpoint about this issue. It does mean that it is very important for us to remember we're a nation in which everybody's supposed to be equal before the law. And, you know, I've known a lot of same-sex couples who are committed, who are raising kids.”

“For them to be treated differently, I think is not fair. And I think an increasing number of Americans agree with that. So I think it is time for the justices to examine this issue. And I certainly believe that those states that have made a decision to recognize these couples as being married, that the federal government has to respect that decision by the states. That's traditionally been how it works.”

“States have defined marriage and the federal government has followed the lead of the states. And so my hope is that the court reaches these issues. And that we end up living in a country where everybody is treated fairly. That's what I think is the most important thing about America.”