In the Obama administration's latest act of solidarity with the gay rights community, the Department of Justice on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to reject California's ban on same-sex marriage, arguing that denying couples the right to marry violates the Constitution's equal protection clause.
The administration filed a friend-of-the-court brief late in the afternoon, saying the Proposition 8 legal battle that began in California four years ago should be subjected to "heightened scrutiny."
The brief focuses specifically on the controversial ban in California, which was approved by a voter initiative in 2008, just months after the state's Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex couples marrying. The administration's position is that offering civil unions to gay couples while denying them the right to marry violates the Constitution.
Though the brief addresses Prop 8 directly, more broadly, and symbolically, the administration's position could apply to seven other states—Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and Oregon—each that offers civil unions but not marriage rights for gay couples.
After being dubbed the "first gay president" for being the first to openly support same-sex marriage, Obama intensified his commitment to gay rights, saying in his inaugural address, “If we are truly created equal, than surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
According to a Gallup poll conducted after the sweeping extensions to voter-backed marriage rights initiatives at the state level, 53% of Americans said they favored legalized same-sex marriage.
LGBT advocates quickly came out in support of the Obama administration's legal move to pressure the Supreme Court in such a landmark case. On Thursday, actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson of Modern Family told msnbc's Lawrence O'Donnell that the president was guiding Americans to fall in line on equality.
“We have a lot of people like the president saying he supports marriage equality," Ferguson said. "It’s bigger than I think he realizes it is.”