Obama’s words in same-sex marriage filing to court is a major shift for him

7 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

#LoveCantWait: Democrats push SCOTUS on marriage equality.

President Obama’s winding path on same-sex marriage reached a major new milepost Friday when his administration told the Supreme Court that the Constitution does not allow states to prohibit gay couples from marrying. MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A group of civil rights organizations filed a motion Friday asking a federal judge to order Alabama probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and to add plaintiffs to a suit challenging the state’s gay-marriage ban. The motion filed in Mobile includes Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Ever since the court took the case, dozens of these briefs have been rolling in—but Mehlman’s is notable for a very specific reason: It is signed by 303 conservatives, many of whom opposed gay marriage in the past, all of whom now believe the Constitution grants same-sex couples the right to marry.

After endorsing same-sex marriage nearly two decades ago, and then rejecting that idea eight years later, Obama has made expanding LGBT rights a hallmark of his domestic policy agenda. Casting it as the next chapter of the civil rights movement, the president has used language to reframe the public debate over sexual orientation and gender identity and his executive authority to expand federal benefits and protections for these Americans. The four states defending their marriage restrictions have until March 27 to file their briefs, with friend-of-the-court briefs supporting their position due April 17.

This broad range of support underscores that a once divisive issue is all but over in the minds of corporate leaders and even key strategists and politicians of a Republican party that has opposed same-sex marriage in its official platform. The Institute for Justice, a libertarian advocacy group best known for property-rights cases, filed one brief urging the court to strike down the bans, and dozens of prominent Republicans, including Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk , former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, joined a brief filed by Ken Mehlman , a former Republican National Committee chairman who is gay.

John Danforth of Missouri, a mentor to Justice Clarence Thomas , and Jennifer Gratz, the plaintiff in a 2003 case that struck down an affirmative-action program at the University of Michigan. The brief itself is nothing special; in rather plain terms, it explains why the equal protection clause and the due process clause require the government to treat gay people with “equal dignity.” But this brief isn’t really about substance. A filing by a collection of Republican leaders (including California gubernatorial candidates Neel Kashkari and Meg Whitman) said the ban on such marriages doesn’t square with the party’s “understanding of the properly limited role of government.” The principle of marriage equality, consistent with the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law, should not depend on where one lives in the U.S.

Verrilli Jr. “There is similarly no reason to water down the otherwise appropriate level of scrutiny here.” The brief draws heavily on the court’s DOMA decision, U.S. v. This time around, the effort seems more squarely aimed at Chief Justice John Roberts, whose wavering vote may be won over by the dozens of business luminaries who signed the brief. White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who has played a key role in shaping the administration’s approach to gay rights, said in an interview before the filing, “We fight discrimination in every way we can.” “We are delighted with the fact that when the president took office, same-sex marriage was legal in two states, and it is now legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia,” she said.

As an Illinois state senate candidate, he endorsed the idea in a 1996 questionnaire with an LGBT Chicago newspaper, a comment his aides later said was written by a campaign aide and not representative of his views. By December 2010, the president said his opinion on the matter was “constantly evolving,” and in May 2012, days after Vice President Biden surprised the White House by declaring that he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage, Obama publicly endorsed it as well.

Most of the president’s allies had suspected for years that he backed the concept of same-sex marriage but was hesitant to embrace it in public for fear of losing support among African Americans. On a more practical level, the administration has expanded benefits and safeguards for members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Regardless of where they live, legally married same-sex spouses are now recognized for most federal and military benefits and can receive health-care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Obama has appointed a record number of LGBT Americans to key senior administration posts, has nominated eight openly gay individuals to serve as U.S. ambassadors and has seated 11 openly-gay judges on the federal bench. Among the supporters were GOP officeholders, religious leaders and more than 300 of the nation’s largest companies — including the Super Bowl champions New England Patriots and the World Series-winning San Francisco Giants.

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