Gay rights groups erupted with praise as the Obama administration entered the legal battle over California’s ban on same-sex nuptials late Thursday - a development that dismayed supporters of traditional marriage.
The brief filed by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. is “a powerful statement that Proposition 8 cannot be squared with the principles of equality upon which this nation was founded,” said Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the sole sponsor of the lawsuit seeking to overturn the law.
Proposition 8 is a 2008 voter-passed initiative that says only marriages between one man and one woman are legal in California.
The Obama administration had until midnight Thursday to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the lawsuit, Hollingsworth v. Perry, seeking to overturn Proposition 8. The landmark case will be heard March 26 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The administration’s brief urges the Supreme Court to affirm lower-court rulings that find Proposition 8 unconstitutional under the equal-protection clause in the U.S. Constitution. The brief argues that Proposition 8 should be subject to “heightened” judicial scrutiny because it involves a law that discriminates against a class of people on the basis of sexual orientation.
The government also argued that defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman cannot be justified as substantially furthering any important state interest.
“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,” Mr. Umhoefer said of the administration’s legal brief.
Mr. Obama and the solicitor general “have taken another historic step forward consistent with the great civil rights battles of our nation’s history,” Mr. Griffin said. “The president has turned the inspirational words of his second inaugural address into concrete action by urging our nation’s highest court to put an end to discrimination against loving, committed gay and lesbian couples and their families.”
Supporters of the California marriage law Friday decried the Obama administration’s legal involvement in the case.
In Mr. Obama’s first term, he indicated that Americans can “maintain a special designation for marriage between man and woman,” and that “supporters of traditional marriage can hold that position without discriminatory animus,” said Mr. Pugno.
Moreover, Mr. Obama said “it would be a ‘mistake’ to transform the debate over redefining marriage into a federal issue.”
“Yet today, 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 long-standing interest in both mothers and fathers raising the next generation, and disregarded the rights of each state to decide for itself whether to re-define marriage,” said Mr. Pugno.
Backers of Proposition 8 believe that “homosexual ‘marriage’ is not constitutionally protected” and that the Supreme Court “will recognize the limited role of the courts in this debate, and uphold the will of California voters to protect traditional marriage.”
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Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor. Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...
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