Obama admin urges Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage

Reuters / Marvin Gentry
The Justice Department filed an amicus brief on Friday urging the Supreme Court to find same-sex marriage bans “incompatible with the Constitution.” The nation’s highest court is due to hear oral arguments on the issue in April.

The amicus brief filed by Justice Department lawyers urged the Supreme Court to find such bans unconstitutional because “they exclude a long-mistreated class of human beings from a legal and social status of tremendous import.”

READ MORE: Alabama county halts all marriages over same-sex ruling

The Obama administration takes the position that laws denying same-sex marriage violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The brief argues that throughout US history, gay and lesbian people have been discriminated against and the governments on the federal, state and local levels have contributed to that history.

Gay individuals have “encountered numerous barriers – public and private, symbolic and create – that have prevented them from full, free, and equal participation in American life,” stated the brief, according to the Huffington Post.

The government dismissed the argument from ban supporters that marriage is only between a man and woman.

“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, according to the Huffington Post. The view that marriage is entirely geared toward procreation “would hardly be recognizable” to most married couples.

In January, Supreme Court justices said they would hear cases from Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, all four of which have banned gay marriage within their states, under the case Obergefell v. Hodges. In total, 14 states still have gay marriage bans on the books. The justices will need to rule not only on whether state bans are constitutional, but also on whether states have to recognize same-sex marriages that were legally performed in other states.

Momentum has been gradually building for gay marriage supporters around the US ever since 2013, when the court struck down part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that allowed the federal government to refuse to recognize same-sex unions from states that legalized the right. The law barred the government from granting gay couples benefits that were extended to straight couples.

Public opinion has also tilted in favor of same-sex advocates, with polls showing that more Americans are in support of gay couples’ right to marry than are opposed.