WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration planned to ask the Supreme Court on Thursday to overturn California's ban on gay marriage and take a skeptical view of similar bans elsewhere, according to a person familiar with the government's legal filing in the California case.
While the administration's friend-of-the-court brief in the Proposition 8 case does not call for marriage equality across the United States, it does point the court in that direction.
A Supreme Court ruling in line with the administration's argument could have broad implications and almost certainly expand the rights of same-sex couples to wed.
The administration's nonbinding brief contends that denying gays and lesbians the right to marry violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. The document urges the justices to give extra rigorous review to any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.
The person familiar with the brief spoke on anonymity in order to discuss the document before it was filed.
The brief marks President Barack Obama's most expansive view of the legal rights of gays and lesbians to marry. He announced his personal support for gay marriage last year and has said marriage should be governed by states.
The Justice Department planned to submit its brief later Thursday, the deadline for filing in the California case. The justices will hear oral arguments in the case on March 26.
The Proposition 8 ballot initiative was approved by California voters in 2008 in response to a state Supreme Court decision that had allowed gay marriage. Twenty-nine other states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage; nine states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.
In recent days, many states, organizations and individuals have filed briefs in the case.
Thirteen states, including four that do not now permit gay couples to wed, urged the court on Thursday to declare the ban unconstitutional. They said marriage enhances economic security and emotional well-being for the partners, and is better for children.
"All of these interests are furthered by ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution," said the brief signed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.
It was joined by Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, Delaware, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and the District of Columbia.