Obama urges Supreme Court to overturn gay marriage ban
By Julie Pace and Mark Sherman ,APWASHINGTON -- The Obama administration wants the Supreme Court to overturn California's ban on gay marriages, outlining a broad legal argument that could ultimately be applied to other state prohibitions across the country.
March 2, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
The administration's friend-of-the-court brief, filed Thursday evening, unequivocally calls on the justices to strike down California's Proposition 8 ballot measure, although it stops short of the soaring rhetoric on marriage equality U.S. President Barack Obama expressed in his inaugural address in January. Still, it marks the first time a U.S. president has urged the high court to expand the right of gays and lesbians to wed.
The brief is not legally binding, though the government's opinion could carry weight with the Supreme Court when it hears oral arguments on Proposition 8 in late March.
California is one of eight states that give gay couples all the benefits of marriage through civil unions or domestic partnership but don't allow them to wed. The brief argues that in granting same-sex couples those rights, California has already acknowledged that gay relationships bear the same hallmarks as straight ones.
“They establish homes and lives together, support each other financially, share the joys and burdens of raising children, and provide care through illness and comfort at the moment of death,” the administration wrote.
The brief marks the president's most expansive view of gay marriage and signals that he is moving away from his previous assertion that states should determine their own marriage laws. Obama, a former constitutional law professor, signed off on the administration's legal argument last week following lengthy discussions with Attorney General Eric Holder and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
In a statement following the filing, Holder said “the government seeks to vindicate the defining constitutional ideal of equal treatment under the law.”
Obama's position, if adopted by the court, would likely result in gay marriage becoming legal in the seven other states: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island.
In the longer term, the administration urges the justices to subject laws that discriminate on sexual orientation to more rigorous review, as is the case for claims that laws discriminate on the basis of race, sex and other factors.
The Supreme Court has never given gay Americans the special protection it has afforded women and minorities. If it endorses such an approach in the gay marriage cases, same-sex marriage bans around the country could be imperiled.