No sooner had the Supreme Court announced Friday that it planned to hear two marriage equality cases than the Obama administration faced questions about whether it would file briefs in the challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, the California marriage ban.
Ted Olson, an attorney in the Prop. 8 challenge, said he “hoped” the administration would take a position. Politico asked him about the administration’s stance in a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon.
“I would hate to predict what the United States government is doing, but given the stand the president of the United States and the attorney general of the United States made with respect to marriage equality, we would certainly hope that they would participate,” he said. “And I’m quite confident that if they did participate, they would support our position in this case because the denial of equal rights is subject to close scrutiny by the courts and cannot withstand that scrutiny.”
President Obama proclaimed his personal support for marriage equality in May, and last year the Justice Department announced it would no longer defend DOMA, the 1996 law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. While the administration has filed briefs in lower court challenges to DOMA, it has not declared a position in the Prop. 8 case. The administration will have an opportunity to weigh in during the upcoming filing period in the Supreme Court, which is expected to hear oral arguments in March.
Already, the Courage Campaign has launched a petition urging President Obama and the Department of Justice to “submit a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that a state ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.”
Although the President has expressed opposition to Prop. 8 and similar constitutional bans that prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages, he has not addressed the constitutionality of such bans, BuzzFeed reports. Depending on how the Supreme Court looks at the case, it could result in a decision limited to California, or a sweeping ruling on a federal constitutional right to marry for same-sex couples.
Back in September, the White House and the Justice Department had no comment on the Prop. 8 challenge, reports the Washington Blade. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney maintained the silence yesterday in a press conference, according to Metro Weekly, which asked about the administration’s plans and the President’s reaction to the court’s decision to take up the cases.
“That thing that we thought was becoming a thing – the issue of how actively (if at all) the administration will get involved in the upcoming Prop 8 and DOMA cases before the Supreme Court – is now officially a thing,” reports Americablog.