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.
“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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