- (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
In an impromptu White House press conference on Friday, President Barack Obama spoke on his administration's recent decision to file an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8, saying there is "no good reason" for a ban on same-sex marriage.
He was responding to a reporter who asked the president why he doesn't "just argue that marriage is a right that should be available to all people of this country."
Obama responded by saying: "What we've said is that same-sex couples are a group, a class that deserves heightened scrutiny. 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 court may decide that if it doesn't apply in this case, it probably can't apply in any case. There's no good reason for it. If I were on the court, that would probably be the view that I would put forward. But I'm not a judge, I'm the president."
He continued, "The basic principle, though, is let's treat everybody fairly, let's treat everybody equally, and – and I think that the brief that's been presented accurately reflects our views."
Obama also told reporters at Friday's press conference that he felt it was important for his administration to become involved in the Proposition 8 case because he found the amendment that was passed by voters in 2008 to be unconstitutional. The amendment defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
"... 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," Obama told reporters.
The Obama administration filed its amicus brief late Thursday, the last day for briefs to be filed in the Supreme Court case.
"The exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from marriage does not substantially further any important governmental interest. Proposition 8 thus violates equal protection," wrote Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. in the brief favoring the overturning of Proposition 8 in California.
Obama, who initially took office supporting civil unions but not same-sex marriage, came out in support of its legalization last year.
Many critics note Obama has previously stated that he does not believe in federal intervention regarding same-sex marriage, and that it is an issue which should be left to state jurisdiction.
In a statement to ABC News, Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, a proponent of Proposition 8, called Obama's brief "unprecedented" and "hardly surprising, but nevertheless disturbing."
"In his first term as president, Obama clearly stated that Americans can choose a special designation of marriage between man and woman, and that supporters of traditional marriage can hold that position without animus," the statement on behalf of Protectmarriage.com read, according to ABC News.
"He later remarked that it would be a 'mistake' to make the debate over redefining marriage into a federal issue," the statement continued.
"Yet today, by stating that the traditional definition of marriage is rooted only in irrational prejudice, the president has impugned the motives and actions of millions of Californians and turned his back on society's long-standing interest in both mothers and fathers raising the next generation."
Opening arguments for the Supreme Court Proposition 8 case will be heard March 26.
During this term, the Supreme Court will also be hearing a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman on a federal level.