Obama Administration Files Brief Supporting Marriage Equality

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March 4, 2013
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In a legal brief to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department argues that Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage, violates the United State's Constitution's equal protection clause.

The brief urges the high court to consider Proposition 8 under "heightened scrutiny," a legal test in which supporters of the ban must clearly demonstrate an important government purpose for discrimination.

Proposition 8, the Obama administration says, fails to meet that standard.

Justice Department attorneys argue that the justifications forwarded by Proposition 8's supporters --promoting "responsible procreation," affirming the "traditional definition" of marraige, and proceeding with caution on divisive social issues--do not advance a significant government purpose that would be accomplished by excluding gay couples from marrying. 

The "procreation" argument could be used to deny marriage to infertile heterosexual couples, and "tradition" was historically used to justify racial segregation, the brief explains.

The brief offers the court a way to strike down Proposition 8 but limit the impact of its decision to California and seven other states that deny gay couples the right to marry but that recognize same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case on March 26. The following day, the justices will hold a hearing on a challenge to the "Defense of Marriage Act," which denies federal recognition to same-sex married couples.

The Obama administration filed its brief the day after results were released from a new Field Poll indicating that 61 percent of California voters now favor allowing same sex couples the right to marry.