WASHINGTON — President Obama refused to say Wednesday whether his administration will weigh in on the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 marriage amendment that is before the Supreme Court.
Distancing himself from the decision, Obama said the Justice Department was still reviewing the issue and added that he has to “make sure that [he’s] not interjecting [him]self too much into this process.”
Facing a Feb. 28 deadline for filing an amicus curiae — or friend of the court — brief with the high court, Obama was asked in an interview with San Francisco’s KGO-TV whether his administration would be giving the court its view on the constitutionality of the state’s 2008 marriage amendment that stopped same-sex couples from being able to marry there.
“The solicitor general [in the Justice Department] is still looking at this. I have to make sure that I’m not interjecting myself too much into this process, particularly when we’re not a party to the case,” Obama said. “I can tell you, though, obviously, my personal view, which is that I think that same-sex couples should have the same rights and be treated like everybody else, and that’s something I feel very strongly about and my administration is acting on wherever we can.”
Earlier Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that a senior administration official said that no “final decision” had been made yet on whether a brief would be filed in the Proposition 8 case. The AP also reported that Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, DOJ’s lawyer before the Supreme Court, is “consulting” with the White House on the issue.
Although the administration is a party to a second case before the court challenging the Defense of Marriage Act’s federal definition of “marriage” and “spouse” as being limited to marriages of one man and one woman, the administration is not involved in the Proposition 8 litigation.
In the DOMA case, Obama and the Justice Department have viewed the law as unconstitutional since February 2011, at which point DOJ stopped defending the provision in court. Obama has never said, however, whether he believes Proposition 8 — or any state law or constitutional provision banning same-sex couples from marrying — is unconstitutional.
The couples challenging Proposition 8, backed by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, face a Thursday deadline to file their brief with the Supreme Court arguing why the 2008 amendment is unconstitutional. Supportive friend-of-the-court briefs in the Proposition 8 case are due by Feb. 28.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the Proposition 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, on March 26. Arguments in the DOMA case, United States v. Windsor, are set for March 27.
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