The Obama administration on Friday urged the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense Of Marriage Act in a brief that calls the law unconstitutional because it violates "the fundamental guarantee of equal protection."

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argues in the brief that Section 3 of the 1996 federal law prohibits the marriage of same-sex couples and should get the court's close scrutiny.

"The law denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples. Because this discrimination cannot be justified as substantially furthering any important governmental interest, Section 3 is unconstitutional."

DOMA, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, has been found unconstitutional by lower courts. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in one of those cases, U.S. v. Windsor. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 27.

Verrilli argues in his brief that gays and lesbians have been historically discriminated against. He describes how DOMA should proceed if the Supreme Court does not apply the increased scrutiny:

"The government has previously defended Section 3 under rational-basis review, and does not challenge the constitutionality of Section 3 under that highly deferential standard."

The administration argues that the court may consider a higher level of rational-basis review. The brief states that the increased consideration would be valid in order to "guard against giving effect to a desire to harm an 'unpopular group.'"

The brief wraps up with an argument against the view advanced by the House Republicans in the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group: the issue is not for the courts to decide.

"This is, however, the rare case in which deference to the democratic process must give way to the fundamental constitutional command of equal treatment under law. Section 3 of DOMA targets the many gay and lesbian people legally married under state law for a harsh form of discrimination that bears no relation to their ability to contribute to society. It is abundantly clear that this discrimination does not substantially advance an interest in protecting marriage, or any other important interest. The statute simply cannot be reconciled with the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection. The Constitution therefore requires that Section 3 be invalidated."

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Connecticut

    Since November 12, 2008

  • Delaware

    Gay marriage law <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/07/delaware-gay-marriage-law-_n_3232771.html" target="_blank">enacted</a>, weddings to begin July 1.

  • Iowa

    Since April 3, 2009

  • Maine

    In 2012, Maine voted in favor of a ballot amendment to legalize gay marriage.

  • Maryland

    The gay marriage bill was signed into law by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on March 1, 2012. Opponents later gathered enough signatures to force the issue back onto the ballot in November 2012, but voters rejected the effort against gay marriage.

  • Massachusetts

    Since May 17, 2004

  • Minnesota

    Same-sex marriage bill signed into law in May. Gay marriages will begin in August.

  • New Hampshire

    Since January 1, 2010

  • New York

    Since July 24, 2011

  • Rhode Island

    Bill passed in May. Law takes effect on August 1, 2013.

  • Vermont

    Since September 1, 2009

  • Washington

    On February 13, 2012, Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) signed a law allowing same-sex marriage ceremonies to begin on June 7, 2012. The process was delayed by gay marriage opponents who gathered enough signatures to put the issue up to a state vote in November 2012. They voted to approve it on Election Day.

  • Washington D.C.

    Since March 9, 2010

  • California

    The state initially began conducting gay marriages on June 16, 2008. On November 5, 2008, however, California voters passed Proposition 8, which amended the state's constitution to declare marriage as only between a man and a woman. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled against that law, and the state shortly thereafter began sanctioning same-sex nuptials.