Politics

March 1, 2013

White House says Prop 8 violates the Constitution

Maine has also signed onto friend-of-the-court briefs defending the right to civil marriage for all couples, along with 100 prominent Republicans.

The Associated Press

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This Sept. 6, 2011 file photo shows a man walking past a group of people protesting against gay marriage outside a courtroom where the California Supreme Court was hearing arguments in San Francisco. The Obama administration on Thursday will ask the Supreme Court to overturn California's ban on gay marriage and take a skeptical view of similar bans. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

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In his inaugural address, the president said the nation's journey "is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law."

AP

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MAINE JOINS EFFORT

The state of Maine has signed on to support two, separate friend-of-the-court briefs that urge the U.S. Supreme Court to stike down laws that discriminate against same-sex couples.

Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills announced Thursday that she has filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to declare California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

The brief, endorsed by 13 states, argues that Proposition 8 harms families by denying them legal and social benefits.

Mills said she will file a second amicus brief Friday that urges the Supreme Court to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

"Equal protection under the law is the bedrock on which America's legal foundation is built," Mills said. "I am troubled by the notion that a state might declare that one group of Americans can be accorded the benefits of civil marriage, but another group of Americans is not."

In November, Maine became the first state in the nation to approve gay marriage at the ballot box. Eight other states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage.

– From staff reports

The other is Proposition 8, which was passed by voters after the California Supreme Court recognized a right for same-sex unions under the state constitution. More than 18,000 couples were wed in the meantime.

A federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit struck down the amendment.

While the DOMA case concerns couples who are already married, the Proposition 8 case offers the Supreme Court a chance to examine whether there is a constitutional right to marriage that cannot be denied by the states. But, as the administration's brief indicated, there are more limited ways the court could rule.

Currently, the District of Columbia, Maine and eight other states allow same-sex marriages, while nearly all the rest forbid it.

Obama's position on same-sex marriage is an evolving one, he has said. While he opposed Proposition 8, he has never said he believed that the same-sex marriage issue should be decided on a national basis.

"I continue to believe," he told ABC News last year when announcing his support of same-sex unions, "that this is an issue that is going to be worked out at the local level, because historically, this has not been a federal issue, what's recognized as a marriage."

Those who are defending Proposition 8 say the state's acceptance of domestic partnerships proves that voters were animated by a desire to protect traditional marriage, not to discriminate against homosexuals.

But the administration said that domestic partnerships prove just the opposite. California has "recognized that same-sex couples form deeply committed relationships that bear the hallmarks of their neighbor's opposite-sex marriages; 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 brief stated.

It said a reluctance to change the "traditional" definition of marriage is not a defense.

"Marriage has changed in certain significant ways over time -- such as the demise of coverture and the elimination of racial restrictions on marital partners -- that could have been characterized as traditional or fundamental to the institution," Verrilli wrote.

A purported interest in responsible procreation and child-rearing cannot justify Proposition 8, the brief stated, because California confers "full rights of parenting and child-rearing on same-sex couples."

And the administration said the court should not agree with an argument that it must respect "the will of the people" to amend the state's constitution and to overturn the California Supreme Court's decision allowing same-sex marriage.

In such cases, he said, the judiciary plays a special role in protecting minorities.

The administration's brief is added to dozens that outside groups have filed in the same-sex marriage cases. Briefs have been submitted by states that allow such unions and those that forbid it; religious groups on both sides of the issue; Republicans who support same-sex marriage and conservatives who say it undermines a traditional way of life.

Labor unions and hundreds of major corporations weighed in on the side of same-sex marriage, for instance.

The AFL-CIO said its gay workers are economically harmed by laws that do not allow them to marry.

"These economic injuries are readily quantifiable in terms of the dollars gay and lesbian workers are forced to spend on higher costs and taxes, in the denials of access to publicly and privately provided benefits, and in the refusals of entry into and in the deportations out of the U.S.," the union brief said.

The businesses, which included such giants as Microsoft and Nike and small businesses such as a winery in California, said restrictions against same-sex marriage cause extra work for them -- over insurance coverage and taxes, for instance -- and force them to categorize workers differently.

"It puts us, as employers, to unnecessary cost and administrative complexity, and regardless of our business or professional judgment forces us to treat one class of our lawfully married employees differently than another, when our success depends upon the welfare and morale of all employees," the brief stated.

On the other side, 19 states, including Virginia, urged the court to overturn the 9th Circuit's opinion, which it said overrode the will of California voters.

"The result is not merely vitiation of California's co-equal sovereignty without a clear constitutional warrant," the brief said. "It is disintegration of perhaps the most fundamental and revered cultural institution of American life: marriage as we know it."

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Politics poll: Same-sex marriage review

Do you agree with the Obama administration's belief that the Supreme Court should review laws banning same-sex marriage under "heightened scrutiny."

Yes

No

View Results