The Obama Administration made history by filing a brief at the Supreme Court arguing for the first time on behalf of the U.S. Government that a law denying loving and committed gay and lesbian couples the ability to marry is unconstitutional. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli filed the amicus curiae brief in the Perry case arguing that California’s Proposition 8 discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws. The government also argues, as it has in the challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), that laws that treat gays and lesbians differently must be held to a higher standard of review. The United States has a proud history of standing on the side of equality by filing amicus briefs in landmark civil rights cases, including the ground-breaking school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education.
“President Obama and the Solicitor General have taken another historic step forward consistent with the great civil rights battles of our nation’s history,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, co-founder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which brought the challenge to Proposition 8. “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.”
While the Justice Department has actively argued against the constitutionality of DOMA in court, this brief marks the first time the Obama administration has weighed in on the constitutionality of a state law barring marriage for same-sex couples. The Solicitor General’s brief joins dozens of amici supporting the Perry plaintiffs, including major businesses, prominent Republicans, faith groups, civil rights organizations, legal scholars, and many others.
“The straightforward proposition that our Constitution guarantees all Americans equal protection of the laws, including marriage laws, has always been central to our case,” added Griffin, who recruited the expert legal team of Theodore B. Olson and David Boies to argue the case. “It is enormously gratifying to know that today, that the President and U.S. Government are standing with us against marriage discrimination.”
Hollingsworth v. Perry, previously known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger and Perry v. Brown, was filed on behalf of two same-sex couples in federal district court in California in May 2009. Under the sponsorship of AFER and represented by Olson and Boies, the plaintiffs achieved victories in both district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, both of which ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional.
A recent poll conducted for the Respect for Marriage Coalition found that 75 percent of voters believe the ability to marry the person you love is a constitutional right of every American including 56 percent of Republican voters. Additionally, 77 percent of voters believe that marriage for gays and lesbians will be legal in the United States in the next couple of years.
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