The Department of Justice is ready to intervene on behalf of marriage equality if the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear a case on the matter, says Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder made the statement in an interview broadcast this morning on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos. His remarks come just days after Utah officials said they would ask the Supreme Court to settle the issue; Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage has already been struck down by U.S. district and appeals courts. The Supreme Court has not announced whether it will take the case.
If the high court hears this or a similar case from any other state, the Justice Department will file a brief with the court that “will be in support of same-sex marriage,” Holder said in the interview with ABC News’ Pierre Thomas. It would be “consistent with the actions that we have taken over the past couple of years,” Holder added, such as refusing to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a key portion of which was invalidated by the Supreme Court last year.
However, in that decision, when the court ruled that DOMA’s ban on federal government recognition of same-sex marriages violates the U.S. Constitution, it did not say whether marriage is actually a constitutional right. And when the high court heard the case involving California’s Proposition 8, the question before it was whether the measure’s proponents had legal standing to defend it in court; in ruling that they did not, the Supreme Court let lower court rulings against Prop. 8 stand, but still did not establish a constitutional right to marriage.
Holder said he believes marriage is a constitutional right, and he thinks the Supreme Court will agree when it considers cases on state-level bans of same-sex unions. “I think a lot of these measures that ultimately will come before the court will not survive a heightened scrutiny examination,” he said.
Watch the segment below.