The Associated Press' move Thursday to add a new item to its stylebook, declaring that the terms "husband and wife" are acceptable for any legally recognized marriage—"regardless of sexual orientation"—was just one of the latest same-sex marriage-related announcements to grab headlines a month before the U.S. Supreme Court issues rulings on the hot-button issue.
Similar matters to make news this week include the following:
Herrera’s brief rebuts legal arguments in defense of Prop. 8’s legitimacy, concluding that the measure’s actual justification—“asserting the inferiority of same-sex couples”—was discriminatory and plainly unconstitutional when it was enacted. The two California couples at the center of the case are Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkeley, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo from Burbank.
“It is implausible that more opposite-sex couples will marry, and have children in wedlock, if same-sex couples cannot marry as well,” Herrera's brief contends. “Nor can Proposition 8 be justified as an exercise in promoting the well-being of children or families. It has no effect on gay couples’ ability to raise children, and in fact it denies tens of thousands of children who have same-sex parents the security and esteem of living in a marital family.”
Prop. 8 backers are trying to persuade the Supreme Court to leave the same-sex marriage ban instact, saying the state's voters had a right to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples.
Opponents of the Proposition 8 ban believe Obama signaled his intention to file a brief when he declared in last month's inaugural address that gays and lesbians must be "treated like anyone else under the law." An administration official told the Associated Press that Obama — a former constitutional law professor — was not foreshadowing any legal action in his remarks and was simply restating his personal belief in the right of gays and lesbians to marry, though the official said the administration was considering filing a brief.
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, while nine states and Washington, D.C., recognize same-sex marriage.
The White House administration could also file a narrower brief that would ask the court to issue a decision applying only to California. Or it could decide not to weigh in on the case at all.
The Supreme Court, which will take up the case on March 26, has several options for its eventual ruling. Among them:
For weeks, supporters and opponents of Proposition 8 have been lobbying the administration to side with them.
Ahead of next week's deadline, nearly two dozen states have filed briefs with the court asking the justices to uphold the California measure.
Public opinion has shifted in support of gay marriage in recent years. In May 2008,
Gallup found that 56 percent of Americans felt same-sex marriages should not be recognized by the law as valid. By November 2012, 53 percent felt they should be legally recognized.
One day after the court hears the California case, the justices will hear arguments on another gay marriage case, this one involving provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The act defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of deciding who can receive a range of federal benefits.
The Obama administration abandoned its defense of the law in 2011 but continues to enforce it.
Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Mark Sherman and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.