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White House staying out of Proposition 8 litigation

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to directly answer a question about whether the Obama administration wants the U.S. Supreme Court to take up litigation challenging California’s Proposition 8 or allow a lower court ruling striking down the same-sex marriage ban to stand.

In response to a question from the Washington Blade, Carney deferred to the Justice Department on whether the White House wants the high court to take up the case as a way to obtain a national ruling on same-sex marriage, or, as the plaintiffs have asked, let the ruling from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stand to allow gay couples in California to marry immediately.

Michael Key, Washington Blade

Jay Carney

“That’s quite a question and I will ask you to direct it to the Justice Department,” Carney said. “I’m not going to make policy toward Supreme Court cases from here.

Carney also was mum in response to a follow-up question about whether Obama would generally support the idea of the Supreme Court taking up litigation that would institute marriage equality across the country.

Shaking his head “no,”  Carney replied, “I don’t have anything to say on that at this time.”

Nanda Chitre, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, responded to a follow-up inquiry on the Prop 8 lawsuit, saying, “We are not a party to this litigation and would decline further comment.”

Litigation challenging Proposition 8, now known as Hollingsworth v. Perry, has been docketed for the Supreme Court during its conference on Sept. 24. If justices decide to let the lower ruling stand, it would enable same-sex couples to marry in California.

Also docketed next week is one of the cases challenging DOMA, Windsor v. United States. The Justice Department has already asked the high court to take up the Windsor case — as well as other DOMA cases — to enable a national ruling on DOMA’s constitutionality. The Supreme Court may wait for a later conference when briefing for other DOMA cases is done to decide whether to take up cases challenging the constitutionality of the anti-gay law.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said in response to the exchange during the press briefing that he’s confident Obama believes in a constitutional right to marriage equality based on the “powerful and heartfelt case for the freedom to marry” that the president delivered in May.

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