There were exciting headlines for gay marriage this week as a brief, supported both by major Democrats and Republican politicians, was released urging the Supreme Court that Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on March 26 with their final decision expected in June. Prop 8, which passed in California in 2008, made marriage between same-sex couples illegal in the notoriously liberal state and will now influence the entire country’s marriage rights. The brief claims that any law attempting a ban on same-sex couples singles out a section of American citizens, historically due to discrimination, making it subject for unequal treatment. This therefore violates the Fourteenth Amendment, rendering the proposition unconstitutional and unlawful. This important brief from the Obama administration is vital, though Obama may have less influence on the Supreme Court’s rulingthan the surprising amount of Republican signatures on said brief.
President Obama personally supports the the repeal of the gay marriage ban, though his stance on this issue has "evolved," as the New York Times reports. In 1996, while a candidate for the Illinois State Senate, Obama stated, "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages." As a clear gay marriage supporter, it was unnerving to see him flip-flop during his run for presidency in 2008, when he stated, "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian ... it is a sacred union." Yes, more than a decade passed between these statements, which leaves enough time to challenge personal morals, but it is rather clear that his stances are strictly political. For him to win in 2008, he needed the support of more socially conservative voters, and in 1996, he was free to campaign on a more socially liberal basis.
During the 2012 campaign, when President Obama famously spoke with ABC News, he changed his stance once again — stating, "It is important for me to personally go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married." These almost arbitrary declarations make it more obvious that Obama’s support of gay marriage will have little to do with the Supreme Court’s decision. The Republican support on the other hand, could sway the vote.
Reagan-appointed Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is considered the swing vote on the same-sex marriage decision, may be more swayed by the support of the more conservative party. Knowing that dozens of Republicans signed the brief supporting Prop 8’s appeal — including Romney’s senior advisor during the 2012 presidential election, Beth Myers — may make the backlash of such a controversial vote tolerable for Justice Kennedy, who has been the swing vote in previous 4-5 Supreme Court decisions. The Prop 8 repeal would be less likely to pass without this more unifying Republican support. While Obama and the White House’s support is a nice and important gesture, it is not as swing-worthy as the conservative support. This support that will hopefully influence the Supreme Court to vote in favor of gay marriage on March 26.