President Obama’s administration has made history by filing a brief with the US Supreme Court stating that it believes that the ban on same-sex marriage in California is unconstitutional.

While it has previously asserted that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bars the federal government from recognising same-sex marriages, is unconstitutional, this is the first time the administration has taken a similar position on an individual state’s law.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli filed the amicus curiae brief in the Hollingsworth v. Perry case arguing that California’s Proposition 8 discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and violates the US Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. 

The government also argues, as it has in the challenge to DOMA, that laws that treat gays and lesbians differently must be held to a higher standard of review. 

The Proposition 8 ban was put in place by 52% of California voters in a referendum in November 2008, after the state had earlier legalised same-sex marriage. It has since been the subject of ongoing legal battles.

“President Obama and the Solicitor General have taken another historic step forward consistent with the great civil rights battles of our nation’s history,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. 

“The President has turned the inspirational words of his second inaugural address into concrete action by urging our nation’s highest court to put an end to discrimination against loving, committed gay and lesbian couples and their families.”

The Supreme Court is set to later this month hear the legal challenges against Proposition 8 and against DOMA and is expected to rule on the cases in June. The Obama administration previously filed a brief with the court supporting the repeal of DOMA.

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