Obama asks court to nix gay unions ban
WASHINGTON — In a historic argument for gay rights, President Obama on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to overturn California's same-sex marriage ban and turn a skeptical eye on similar prohibitions across the country.
The Obama administration's friend-of-the-court brief marked the first time a president has urged the high court to expand the right of gays and lesbians to wed. The filing 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 Obama expressed in his inaugural address in January.
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 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 White House wrote.
Obama's position, if adopted by the court, likely would 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 than usual, a standard that would imperil other state bans on same-sex marriage.
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 after lengthy discussions with Attorney General Eric Holder and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
In a statement after the filing, Holder said “the government seeks to vindicate the defining constitutional ideal of equal treatment under the law.”
Friend-of-the-court briefs are not legally binding. But the government's opinion in particular could carry some weight with the justices when they hear oral arguments in the case March 26.
Despite the potentially wide-ranging implications of the administration's brief, it still falls short of what gay rights advocates and the attorneys who will argue against Proposition 8 had hoped for. Those parties had pressed the president to urge the Supreme Court not only to overturn California's ban, but to declare all gay marriage bans unconstitutional.
Still, marriage equality advocates welcomed the president's positioning.
“President Obama and the solicitor general have taken another historic step forward consistent with the great civil rights battles of our nation's history,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign and co-founder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which brought the legal challenge to Proposition 8.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- FBI agent, 2 others sentenced in contractor kickback scheme in Utah
- Indiana governor wants changes to religious-objection law
- Benghazi panel formally requests private interview with Hillary
- Christie rails against high N.J. estate tax
- Obama vetoes union election bill; streamlined election process to move forward
- Appalachian miners wiped out by coal glut they can’t reverse
- Experts skeptical of N.D.’s new oil train safety checks
- Mining for tourists? A dubious economic savior in Appalachia
- American crash victims: U.S. government contractor, daughter
- Federal agents charged with plundering online drug bazaar Silk Road
- $140M Picasso likely to set auction record