Obama says his changed views on gay marriage prompted Proposition 8 filing

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images - Same-sex marriage proponent Kat McGuckin of Oaklyn, New Jersey, holds a gay marriage pride flag while standing in front of the Supreme Court, draped in a photo-realistic sheet during a repair and preservation project, November 30, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

President Obama said Friday that his personal evolution toward supporting gay marriage helped convince him that his administration could not avoid weighing in on California’s same-sex marriage ban.

“I felt it was important for us to articulate what I believe and what this administration stands for,” Obama said a day after the Justice Department filed a court brief arguing that Proposition 8 — a voter initiative that limits marriage to a man and a woman — violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

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“The same evolution that I’ve gone through is an evolution that the country as a whole has gone through,” Obama said during a news conference at the White House. “And I think it is a profoundly positive thing.”

The White House’s entry for the first time into the legal battle over Proposition 8 was hailed by gay rights advocates, but the administration stopped short of endorsing a constitutional right to marry that would apply nationwide.

Although Obama said he personally endorses that right, the White House has said it is a question that should be decided at the state level.

Still, the administration’s friend-of-the-court brief said the court should review laws banning same-sex marriage under “heightened scrutiny.”

“We’ve put forward a basic principle, which applies to all equal protection cases,” Obama said. “Whenever a particular group is being discriminated against, the court asks the question, ‘What’s the rationale for this?’ And it better be a good reason. And if you don’t have a good reason, we’re going to strike it down.”

Obama added that if he were a Supreme Court justice, he would probably advance the idea that if Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, so are any similar laws in other states.

“But I’m not a judge, I’m the president,” he said. “So the basic principle, though, is let’s treat everybody fairly. Let’s treat everybody equally.”

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