WASHINGTON -- The Obama Administration on Thursday filed an amicus "friend of the court" brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the justices to strike down California's Proposition 8 law that bans marriage equality in the Golden State.
The 40-page brief, which can be viewed below, was filed by Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. and other legal minds from the Justice Department.
This case presents the question whether California’s denial of the right to marry to same-sex couples violates equal protection. The United States has an interest inthe Court’s resolution of that question, particularly in light of its participation in United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307 (cert. granted Dec. 7, 2012), now pending before the Court. The President and Attorney General have determined that classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny for equal protection purposes. 12-307 J.A. 183-194 (Letter from Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the Unit-ed States, to John A. Boehner, Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives (Feb. 23, 2011)). This case, like Windsor, presents the Court with the opportunity to address the question whether laws that target gay and lesbian people for discriminatory treatment should be subject to heightened scrutiny. The United States has participated as amicus curiae in other cases to address the level of scrutiny to be applied to a particular classification for equal protection purposes. E.g., City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. 432 (1985). Certain in-terests articulated in support of Proposition 8 in this case also have been raised in Windsor in support of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the Court’s approach when examining those interests there-fore is of significance to the United States.
In the summary of the government's argument:
Private respondents, committed gay and lesbian cou-ples, seek the full benefits, obligations, and social recog-nition conferred by the institution of marriage. Califor-nia law provides to same-sex couples registered as do-mestic partners all the legal incidents of marriage, but itnonetheless denies them the designation of marriageallowed to their opposite-sex counterparts. Particularlyin those circumstances, the exclusion of gay and lesbiancouples from marriage does not substantially furtherany important governmental interest. Proposition 8thus violates equal protection.
The government also argues that Prop 8's sole purpose was to deny same-sex partners access to marriage.
Proposition 8’s denial of marriage to same-sex cou-ples, particularly where California at the same timegrants same-sex partners all the substantive rights of marriage, violates equal protection. The Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection embodies adefining constitutional ideal that “all persons similarlysituated should be treated alike.”