WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration thinks the Supreme Court should rule that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, according to a brief filed by Justice Department lawyers on Friday. The administration takes the position that those laws violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
The amicus brief urges the Supreme Court to find such bans "incompatible with the Constitution" because they "exclude a long-mistreated class of human beings from a legal and social status of tremendous import."
The court will hear oral arguments in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges in April.
Gay and lesbian people have “encountered numerous barriers -- public and private, symbolic and concrete -- that have prevented them from full, free, and equal participation in American life” throughout U.S. history, the Justice Department brief says, and government on the federal, state and local levels has contributed to that history of discrimination.
State bans on same-sex marriage, the Obama administration argues, “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 government dismisses the argument from supporters of such bans that they incentivize biological parents to remain together, called that an “unduly cramped view of marriage.”
“It should go without saying that marriage is much more than a government incentive program to encourage biological parents to stay together,” the brief states. That view of marriage as entirely geared toward procreation “would hardly be recognizable” to most married couples.
The government also links the same-sex marriage bans to past prohibitions on interracial marriage.
“Just as a State could not rely on an interest in democratic decisionmaking to prohibit marriage between individuals of a different race ... it cannot rely on such an interest to prohibit marriage between individuals of the same sex,” the government argues.