Metro Weekly

Obama Administration Continues Silence on Proposition 8

The White House refused to weigh in Tuesday on the Supreme Court’s decision to take up the case challenging California’s Proposition 8.

White House.jpgAt a press briefing this afternoon, White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on the administration’s stance on the Proposition 8 case nor some of the broader questions raised by the case, including whether the Constitution protects the rights of same-sex couples to marry. Carney would not say what President Barack Obama’s reaction was to the high court taking up the Proposition 8 case or the Defense of Marriage Act case surrounding Edith Windsor.

METRO WEEKLY: Jay, will the administration take a public stance on the Proposition 8 case that was taken up by the Supreme Court on Friday, in particular some of the broader questions raised by that case, including whether or not the Constitution protects the rights of same-sex couples to marry? 

CARNEY: Well, I appreciate the question, but for comment on the court’s actions on that case I would point you to the Department of Justice. As you know the administration is not a party to this case and I just have nothing more for you on it.

MW: Did the president have any reaction to the court taking up the DOMA or the Prop. 8 case?

CARNEY: I have nothing more for you on that. Appreciate it.

Although the Obama administration has been clear in its views regarding DOMA since announcing in February 2011 that the Justice Department would no longer defend in court the discriminatory 1996 law on the grounds that Section 3, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional, the administration has been far less vocal about any views related to the Proposition 8 case.

The Justice Department has refused to comment on Friday’s Supreme Court activity, although reports suggest that plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case plan to lobby the administration to file a brief with the Supreme Court in their favor.

During a Dec. 7 conference call with reporters shortly after the Supreme Court announced it would take up the Proposition 8 case, one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, Ted Olson, urged the Obama administration to make its position known.

“I would hate to predict what the United States government is doing, but given the stand the president of the United States and the attorney general of the United States made with respect to marriage equality, we would certainly hope that they would participate,” Olson said. “And I’m quite confident that if they did participate that they would support our position in this case that the denial of equal rights is subject to close scrutiny by the courts and cannot withstand that scrutiny. It’s a denial of rights, and it’s quite clear that it is.”

Although Obama has said he opposed California’s Proposition 8, which amended the state’s Constitution in 2008 to ban same-sex marriage after already granting that right to same-sex couples, he has not addressed the broader issues raised in the rulings against Proposition 8, in particular whether he believes the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from banning same-sex marriage.

Advocates have argued that a public stance from the Obama administration would aid their cause and fuel the political climate that can affect the opinions of justices seeking to be on the right side of history.

[Photo: The White House (Credit: Justin Snow/Metro Weekly).]

 Watch Metro Weekly’s exchange with Carney here:

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's former political editor and White House correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @JustinCSnow.