American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

WATCH: Obama Explains Why He’s Asking the Supreme Court to Overturn Prop. 8

During a press conference on March 1, 2013, President Obama addressed the Department of Justice’s filing of an amicus brief in AFER’s Prop. 8 case.  Watch his comments and read the transcript here.

QUESTION: Mr. President, your administration weighed in yesterday on the Proposition 8 case. A few months ago it looked like you might be averse to doing that.

I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about your deliberations and how your thinking evolved on that. Were there conversations that were important to you? Were there things that you read that influenced your thinking?

OBAMA: As everybody here knows, last year upon a long period of reflection, I concluded that we cannot discriminate against same-sex couples when it comes to marriage, that the basic principle that America is founded on, the idea that we’re all created equal, applies to everybody regardless of sexual orientation, as well as race or gender or religion or ethnicity.

And, you know, I think that the same evolution that I’ve gone through is an evolution that the country as a whole has gone through. And I think it is a profoundly positive thing. So that when the Supreme Court essentially called the question by taking this case about California’s law, I didn’t feel like that was something that this administration could avoid. I felt it was important for us to articulate what I believe and what this administration stands for.

And although I do think that we’re seeing on a state-by-state basis progress being made, more and more states recognizing same-sex couples and giving them the opportunity to marry and maintain all the benefits of marriage that heterosexual couples do. When the Supreme Court asks do you think that the California law, which doesn’t provide any rationale for discriminating against same-sex couples other than just the notion that, well, they’re same-sex couples — if the Supreme Court asks me or my attorney general or solicitor general, “Do we think that meets constitutional muster?,” I felt it was important for us to answer that question honestly. And the answer is no.

QUESTION: And given the fact that you do hold that position about gay marriage, I wondered if you thought about just — once you made the decision to weigh in, why not just argue that marriage is a right that should be available to all people in this country?

OBAMA: Well, that’s an argument that I make, personally. The solicitor general, in his institutional role going before the Supreme Court, is obliged to answer the specific question before them. And the specific question presented before the court right now is whether Prop 8 and the California law is unconstitutional.

And what we’ve done is, we’ve put forward a basic principle, which is — which applies to all equal protection cases. Whenever a particular group is being discriminated against, the Court asks the question, “What’s the rational 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.”

And what we’ve said is, is that same-sex couples are a group, a class that deserves heightened scrutiny, that the Supreme Court needs to ask the state why it’s doing it, and if the state doesn’t have a good reason, it should be struck down. That’s the core principle, as applied to this case. Now, what the — you know, the Court may decide that if it doesn’t apply in this case, it probably can’t apply in any case. There — there’s no good reason for it. That’s — if I were on the Court, that’d probably be the view that I’d put forward. But — but I’m not a judge, I’m the president.

So the basic principle, though, is let’s treat everybody fairly. Let’s treat everybody equally. And — and — and, I think, that the brief that’s been presented accurately reflects our views.