On Thursday the Obama administration issued a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Court case examining the constitutionality of California law Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in the state. The administration encouraged the court to rule that it is illegal for the state to restrict marriage on the basis of sexual orientation.
Arguing that Proposition 8 violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, the Obama administration asked the court to examine such laws with "heightened scrutiny." In the amicus brief, it said the law clearly violates the clause:
Private respondents, committed gay and lesbian couples, seek the full benefits, obligations, and social recognition conferred by the institution of marriage. California law provides to same-sex couples registered as domestic partners all the legal incidents of marriage, but it nonetheless denies them the designation of marriage allowed to their opposite-sex counterparts. Particularly in those circumstances, the exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from marriage does not substantially further any important governmental interest.
The brief also acknowledged that seven other states—Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island—also prohibit same-sex couples from marrying, but it didn't request the Supreme Court also rule those laws to be constitutional. Yet it demonstrates Obama's slowly evolving views on the topic: After initially opposing gay marriage, the president came out in support of it in 2012, and has instructed his administration to eliminate various discriminatory federal policies like "don't ask, don't tell" in the military, and instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Supporters of Proposition 8 were "disappointed" by the administration's stance on the case. Andrew P. Pugno, the general counsel for supporters of the law said:
By arguing that Proposition 8 is rooted only in irrational prejudice, the president has impugned the motives of millions of Californians, turned his back on society's longstanding interest in both mothers and fathers raising the next generation, and disregarded the rights of each state to decide for itself whether to redefine marriage.
Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights praised the brief, saying:
It is an unprecedented call to action by our government that it is time to recognize gay and lesbian Americans as full and equal citizens under the law.
The brief comes days after many prominent Republicans also issued an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8.
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