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Obama administration urges Supreme Court to back same-sex marriage

President Barack Obama (R) talks to outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder at the portrait unveiling ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, DC on February 27, 2015.

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As the Supreme Court prepares to hear a case that could determine whether gay couples in all 50 states can wed, President Obama's administration is urging the court to rule that states cannot ban gay marriage.

The recommendation was made in a "friend of the court" brief filed by the Justice Department on Friday.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced earlier this year that the Justice Department would urge the high court to uphold the right of same-sex couples to marry.

"The Department of Justice will remain committed to ensuring that the benefits of marriage are available as broadly as possible," Holder said in a statement in January. "And we will keep striving to secure equal treatment for all members of society--regardless of sexual orientation."

He continued, "As such, we expect to file a 'friend of the court' brief in these cases that will urge the Supreme Court to make marriage equality a reality for all Americans. It is time for our nation to take another critical step forward to ensure the fundamental equality of all Americans - no matter who they are, where they come from, or whom they love."

Two central issues are at play in the case: whether the U.S. Constitution compels states to issue same-sex marriage licenses, and whether states that don't permit same-sex marriage have to recognize such unions performed in other states.

Thirty-six states currently permit gay couples to marry. The plaintiffs in the case come from four states - Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Michigan - where gay marriage is prohibited.

Oral arguments in the case, scheduled for April 28, will span two and a half hours. The Supreme Court has announced that it will release the audio from those arguments.

A decision in the case is expected in June.