DOJ Argues Prop 8 Unconstitutional, Sets Stage For National Implications

By @TrishaMarczakMP |
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    (MintPress) – Minnesota’s introduction of a bill this week that would legalize same-sex marriage comes in the midst of a national debate, as the Obama Administration urges the Supreme Court to strike down California’s Proposition 8, arguing it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by denying gay and lesbians the right to marry.

    “The president and attorney general have determined that classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny for equal protection purposes,” a legal brief filed on behalf of the Administration and Department of Justice states.

    While specifically addressing California’s Proposition 8, the implications of the court’s ruling will be felt in seven other states throughout the nation, including Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island. These states have similar laws, allowing same-sex couples to enter into legal domestic partnerships, but limiting them from marriage.

    “Throughout history, we have seen the unjust consequences of decisions and policies rooted in discrimination,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement regarding Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case to be considered by the Supreme Court. “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 of Americans who are being denied equal benefits and rights under our laws, but to our nation as a whole.”

    The case for Proposition 8 was initially launched after the state’s judges ruled in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry. California voters then struck down that ruling, eliminating the rights of gay and lesbians to marry, but affording them the right to engage in domestic relationships.

    A bill regarding same-sex legislation was introduced this week in Minnesota, where voters in November shot down a referendum that would have added a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. With  momentum on the side of same-sex marriage supporters, eyes are on the Supreme Court and its decision. Minnesotans for Marriage, an organization in opposition to same-sex marriage, submitted its own brief to the Supreme Court, in favor of upholding Proposition 8.

    The brief submitted by the administration paints an argument focused on the discriminatory nature of laws that bar same-sex couples from legally recognized marriage, claiming that such motives have no merit in terms of public benefit.

    “The exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from marriage does not substantially further any important governmental interest,” the administration’s brief states.

    At the heart of the administration’s argument is the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which indicates no state “shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens,” nor shall states “deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

    Citing a 2001 court case regarding disability discrimination, the Justice Department paints the broad case that discrimination cannot be justified, regardless of the reason:  “Prejudice, we are beginning to understand, rises not from malice or hostile animus alone. It may result as well from insensitivity caused by simple want of careful, rational reflection or from some instinctive mechanism to guard against people who appear to be different in some respects from ourselves.”

    The administration’s announcement comes in the midst of the murder of Mississippi’s first openly-gay mayor. While not yet classified as a homicide, one “person of interest” has been questioned regarding Marco McMillian’s death. No charges have yet been made.

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