One week after President Barack Obama’s historic mention of gay rights in his second inaugural address, the New York Times is calling on him to get more involved in the Proposition 8 case that will be argued before the Supreme Court in March.In an editorial published in Monday’s paper, the Times urges Obama to have his solicitor general file a brief in the case declaring that Proposition 8 — the 2008 voter-approved law that bans gay marriage in California — is unconstitutional.
From the editorial:
Just a day after the inauguration, Mr. Obama’s spokesman, Jay Carney, said that while Mr. Obama supports same-sex marriage as a policy matter, the president still believes it is an issue for individual states to decide. That was Mr. Obama’s formulation when he first announced his support for same-sex marriage in May, and even then it made no sense, except perhaps as political cover approaching the general election campaign.
Marriage is traditionally regulated by the states, but there are constitutional limits on what states may do. The Supreme Court’s 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia prevented states from forbidding marriages between interracial couples like Mr. Obama’s own parents.
Furthermore, the day after the Proposition 8 case is argued, the Justice Department will be asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the defence of Marriage Act, the atrocious 1996 statute that denies federal benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples. The government will be arguing that discrimination against gay people, a vulnerable minority group, is presumptively unconstitutional. It is hard to see how the marriage act’s discrimination is presumptively invalid but not California’s wiping out of existing marriage rights for gay people that were mandated by the state’s top court.
In his inaugural address last week, Obama made special mention of the Stonewall gay-rights riots and equated them with watershed moments in the equal-rights struggles of blacks and women. In 1969, the New York City bar Stonewall became synonymous with the birth of the gay-rights movement after a police raid targeting gays led to violent clashes.
Obama compared Stonewall to Seneca Falls — home to the first women’s rights convention in 1848 — and Selma, the town in Alabama where civil-rights supporters were beaten in 1965 during voting-rights marches.
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth,” Obama said.
The NYT wants him to now get involved beyond rhetoric and pronouncements:
Mr. Obama’s Inaugural Address appeared to reflect a deepened understanding that the right to marry the person of one’s choice is a fundamental right “under the law.” He needs to make sure his solicitor general conveys that sound legal view loud and clear in the Proposition 8 case.
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