Obama administration formally supports nationwide gay marriage

Story highlights

  • Administration files a brief before Supreme Court hears cases
  • Brief says bans on same-sex marriage violate the Constitution
  • Those in favor or bans will file their arguments later this month

Washington (CNN)Calling state bans on same-sex marriage "incompatible with the Constitution," the Obama administration Friday filed a brief at the U.S. Supreme Court in support of couples who are making challenges in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

"The marriage bans challenged in these cases impermissibly exclude lesbian and gay couples from the rights, responsibilities and status of civil marriage," Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. wrote. He said the states have "burdened petitioners in every aspect of life that marriage touches, from the mundane to the profound."
The brief marks the first time the administration has formally made a filing with the high court supporting its position that bans on gay marriage should be declared unconstitutional nationwide.
    The court will hear arguments in the state cases on April 28.
    Verrilli said the laws "impose concrete harms on same-sex couples and send the inescapable message that same-sex couples and their children are second-class families, unworthy of the recognition and benefits that opposite-sex couples take for granted."
    The bans, he said, "cannot be reconciled with the fundamental constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws." He said there is "no adequate justification for such a discriminatory and injurious exercise of state control."
    Verrilli stressed that throughout history lesbian and gay people have encountered numerous barriers that have "prevented them from full, free, and equal participation in American life."
    In an op-ed earlier this week , published in USA Today, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote, "Marriage equality is an idea whose time has come."
    President Barack Obama's position on same-sex marriage has evolved.
    In May 2012, in an interview with ABC News, he announced his support for gay marriage. "At a certain point," he said, "I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
    At his 2013 inauguration he said, "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law."
    In February 2013, the administration filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of couples challenging California's ban on same sex marriage. Verilli argued that California law provided same sex couples registered as domestic partners all the legal incidents of marriage, but denied them the "designation of marriage." Ultimately, the Supreme Court dismissed that case.
    Supporters of the state bans have until the end of the month to file their briefs. Thursday was the deadline for briefs in support of petitioners.
    James Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the case, came to the court Friday as the Human Rights Campaign delivered a brief signed by over 200,000 individuals in support of same-sex marriage.
    In an interview, Obergefell said his journey began when he challenged Ohio's refusal to recognize same-sex marriage on death certificates. He was legally married to his partner, John Arthur James, in Maryland in 2013, but after Arthur died, Ohio officials refused to recognize Obergefell as his spouse.
    Asked what it would mean to him if his side wins, Obergefell said, " It will mean John and I matter. It will mean we have the same rights and responsibilities as other Americans."