Significant. Historic. A promise fulfilled.
Not even Meg Whitman can resist.
President Barack Obama’s administration filed a legal brief Thursday with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of overturning Proposition 8, California’s 2008 voter-enacted ban on same-sex marriage.
In San Francisco – where Proposition 8 was first declared unconstitutional by a federal judge, a decision backed by an appeals court before the case reached Washington – legal experts and marriage advocates hailed the filing as a milestone, and one with broader legal implications than initially hoped.
“It is hugely significant,” said John Lewis, legal director of Marriage Equality USA and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the overturn of California’s first same-sex marriage ban in 2008. “The president is standing up for gay Americans. He’s saying that we, like all other Americans, have the freedom to marry.”
The president’s brief – filed in Hollingsworth v. Perry on behalf of all Americans; the filing is made under the party name “United States” – followed another amicus filing made by a host of prominent Republicans, including former California gubernatorial candidate Whitman, who in 2010 spoke in favor of the ban.
Local marriage advocates have spent nearly a decade on the marriage equality question, since former Mayor Gavin Newsom instructed the city clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004.
For City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who defended The City from subsequent lawsuits and is credited with performing much of San Francisco’s official heavy lifting around the marriage issue, the president’s move is vindication.
“Our federal, state and local governments are united in recognizing that marriage equality’s time has finally come,” Herrera said in a statement Thursday. “We hope the U.S. Supreme Court will similarly recognize that Prop. 8 was inexplicable by any rationale other than prejudice. It is unconstitutional, and must be struck down.”
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case March 26. A decision is expected in June.
Hopeful prognosticators such as Lewis pegged the high court’s support in favor of overturning the law at six justices to three, while Supervisor Scott Wiener offered up five to four. And there’s some science behind those numbers; Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is seen as a libertarian swing vote on the court, authored all recent court opinions overturning anti-gay laws, noted Wiener.
“This is an opportunity for him to cement his role in guaranteeing a major civil right to the LGBT community,” Wiener said.