Though it's no surprise that president's in favor of same-sex marriages, one or two heads were turned on Thursday when the Obama administration inserted itself into California's Proposition 8 debate. The Justice Department filed an amicus brief at the end of the day, urging the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional for California to outlaw gay marriage. California voters passed Prop. 8 by a narrow margin in 2008, banning gay marriage and setting into motion a lawsuit arguing against the constitutionality of the measure that the Supreme Court will hear in a month's time. The Obama administration did not mince its words when it took sides. "Prejudice may not be the basis for differential treatment under the law," read the amicus brief.
The significance of the administration's move has less to do with novelty as it does with severity. Legally speaking, you don't get more severe than the Supreme Court, and politically speaking, the president doesn't get much more assertive than swooping into a lawsuit about state's constitution and start picking sides. CNN reports that the brief "had President Barack Obama's personal input and blessing." What a long way we've come since 2009, when the administration defended a national ban on gay marriage. Obama and his lieutenants have changed their tune in a big way. "The government seeks to vindicate the defining constitutional ideal of equal treatment under the law," said Attorney General Eric Holder of this year's Prop. 8 case. "Throughout history, we have seen the unjust consequences of decisions and policies rooted in discrimination."
But hey, progress is progress. Without a reelection to worry about, Obama can now pick his battles freely and fight them boldly. Holder goes on to say that this case and challenges to DOMA aren't just about the same-sex couples the laws affect "but to our nation as a whole." He's right, too. Same-sex marriage is not a special interest case. It's not something that only affects in certain states. It's a national issue that deserves a national point-of-view. The Obama administration just showed us that its more than happy to provide its own. The question now is whether the Supreme Court will listen.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.