More welcome support from the Obama administration on gay marriage.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration came out forcefully Thursday against California's ban on same-sex marriage and, by extension, implicated similar bans in 37 other states.
In a brief to the Supreme Court, which will hear two landmark same-sex marriage cases in late March, the Justice Department argued that gay and lesbian couples should have the same right to marry as heterosexuals.
"The government seeks to vindicate the defining constitutional ideal of equal treatment under the law," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "Throughout history, we have seen the unjust consequences of decisions and policies rooted in discrimination."
The brief marks the first time the administration has weighed in on the constitutionality of any state ban on gay marriage. Although it was aimed at the voter initiative passed in California in 2008, it put the administration squarely against other such prohibitions. It urged the court to subject the state's ban to a difficult legal standard that no state prohibition is likely to meet.
In particular, the brief implicated the other states that, like California, allow domestic partnerships or civil unions: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island.
"The designation of marriage ... confers a special validation of the relationship between two individuals and conveys a message to society that domestic partnerships or civil unions cannot match," the brief states. "Proposition 8's denial of marriage to same-sex couples, particularly where California at the same time grants same-sex partners all the substantive rights of marriage, violates equal protection."