The Justice Department Thursday urged the US Supreme Court to uphold same-sex marriage in California and went even further, suggesting it is unconstitutional to block gay couples from getting married in half a dozen other states.
States violate the Constitution, the administration argued, if they offer civil unions to gay couples but deny them the right to marry.
While that position clearly applies to the legal dispute in California, it would also apply to at least seven other states -- Delaware, Hawaii Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island. Each offers civil unions but not same-sex marriage.
And while the administration takes no position in its brief beyond those states, its reasoning would have even broader implications.
If the administration's legal theory were ultimately accepted, no state could, under constitutional guarantees against discrimination, deny same sex couples the right to marry.
After first suggesting it would not get involved in the California case, the Obama administration late Thursday filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the two gay couples who launched the fight over the issue four years ago.
In a statement, Attorney General Eric Holder said, "In our filing today in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the government seeks to vindicate the defining constitutional ideal of equal treatment under the law ... The issues before the Supreme Court in this case and the Defense of Marriage Act case are not just important to the tens of thousands Americans who are being denied equal benefits and rights under our laws, but to our Nation as a whole."
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