Putting his policy where his inauguration speech is, Obama instructed the White House to file a brief on the side of marriage equality in the Prop 8 case.
The administration said in a legal brief on Thursday that gay and lesbian couples in [California] have the same “equal protection” rights to wed and that voters there were wrong to ban it, according to an administration official.
This is another in a series of Big Moments for the Obama administration on same-sex marriage, following the president’s public support last year, the repeal of DADT, and the mention in his inaugural speech this year. As I’ve previously written, the publicly stated views of the White House have an effect on the country beyond that of any high-level celebrity endorsing same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court rules on law, but in cases like this where the law has sweeping implications for the way of life in the United States, they are likely to look at popular opinion to see whether the country will be severely harmed by a ruling one way or another. Ten or fifteen years ago, a Court could have argued that the country was not ready to embrace same-sex marriage, that opening up the clerks’ offices around the country would make same-sex couples a target and ultimately cause them more harm than good (I don’t know that that argument holds up as a reason not to do the right thing, but it could have been made). Now, with not only President Obama’s White House but also a coalition of 100 Republicans joining the side of same-sex marriage, it is hard to argue that the forces opposing marriage have any kind of foothold. You look at the reaction to Chick-Fil-A and to Chris Culliver, look at the results of last November’s elections in Maine, in Maryland, in Minnesota, in Washington, and you see that the country has–as a whole–drastically altered its course in the last decade.
Will this be enough to restore same-sex marriage in California? Maybe. Maybe not this year. Maybe the court will decide they don’t want to be the instrument of that change. But if it doesn’t happen this year, you know what? It’ll be on the ballot next year, at least in California, and then it’ll pass.
But if you asked me to make a prediction–I know next to nothing about the court, very little about the laws, and all I can see is the indicators of movement in attitudes–I would predict that later this year, the Supreme Court will hold with the rulings of the lower courts, and same-sex marriage will be back in California.