US: Obama administration files brief urging Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8

The Obama administration filed a brief to the Supreme Court on Thursday evening, urging it to strike down the state of California’s ban on equal marriage, a move which has been hailed by equal marriage advocates.

Lawyers for the Obama administration’s filed the briefing on the Proposition 8 case, the controversial legislation which bans equal marriage in the state. The legal argument from the administration was broad, and could be applied to other states with similar bans.

“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 is not legally binding, but could carry weight when the Supreme Court comes to consider oral arguments on the ban, late in March.

The Supreme Court is due on 26 March to take up the case of whether to overturn Proposition 8, which in 2008 added a clause to the Californian constitution stating that marriage could only be recognised by the state if it were between a man and a woman, causing widespread controversy.

The brief contains suggestions that cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation should be treated with extra scrutiny by the court.

The argument by the administration is that denying gay and lesbian people the right to marry is unconstitutional, as it violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who signed off the bill with Obama and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, said: “The government seeks to vindicate the defining constitutional ideal of equal treatment under the law.”

The brief was filed on Thursday evening, the deadline for the administration to file it. 

Richard Socarides, an attorney and equal marriage advocate said: “Obama again asserted a bold claim of full equality for gay Americans, this time in a legal brief… If its full weight and reasoning are accepted by the Supreme Court, all anti-gay marriage state constitutional amendments will fall, and quickly,” reports Commercial Appeal.

Yesterday, Clint Eastwood joined over 100 top Republicans who signed up to argue that the Supreme Court should overturn Proposition 8.

A new poll released this week revealed that 61% of Californians support the right of same-sex couple to marry, a record percentage of support.

In a similar filing made last Friday by Obama’s office, the administration urged the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, also saying courts considering laws targeting gay people should do so with extra scrutiny, and calling it unconstitutional.