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Obama: If I were on Supreme Court, I'd defend same-sex marriage

If he were on the Supreme Court, President Obama said today, he would use the case reviewing California's same-sex marriage ban to strike down same-sex marriage bans nationwide.

When the court later this month reviews the California ban, called Proposition 8, it will have to consider whether California has a good reason for the ban, Mr. Obama explained to reporters in the White House briefing room today, after giving remarks on the sequester.

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"And if the state doesn't have a good reason, it should be struck down. That's the core principle, as applied to this case," he said. "The court may decide that if it doesn't apply in this case, it probably can't apply in any case. There's no good reason for it. If I were on the court, that'd probably be the view that I'd put forward. But -- but I'm not a judge, I'm the president."

While he can't issue a ruling on the matter, Mr. Obama's administration did file an amicus brief in the case, unequivocally calling on the court to strike it down.

"I didn't feel like that was something that this administration could avoid," Mr. Obama said today. "I felt it was important for us to articulate what I believe and what this administration stands for."

The president recalled the moment last year when he openly declared his support same-sex marriage.

"I concluded that we cannot discriminate against same-sex couples when it comes to marriage, that the basic principle that America is founded on, the idea that we're all created equal, applies to everybody regardless of sexual orientation, as well as race or gender or religion or ethnicity," he said. "I think that the same evolution that I've gone through is an evolution that the country as a whole has gone through. And I think it is a profoundly positive thing."

In the brief filed yesterday, the administration doesn't go so far as to say that same-sex couples everywhere should be treated equally. The brief does, however, urge the justices to subject other laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation to more rigorous review than usual.

"We've put forward a basic principle, which applies to all equal protection cases," Mr. Obama said. "Whenever a particular group is being discriminated against, the Court asks the question, 'What's the rationale for this? And it better be a good reason. And if you don't have a good reason, we're going to strike it down.'"

By taking up Proposition 8, the court has a chance to rule on the fundamental issue of whether same-sex couples have a right to get married -- that could extend marriage rights to same-sex couples nationwide. However, because of the unique circumstances of the case, the court's ultimate ruling may only apply to California. Alternatively, the court may just punt the decision back down to the lower courts, which would very likely end up in a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. (Read more about the case here.)

Mr. Obama is one of several outside parties weighing in on the Proposition 8 case. Earlier this week, dozens of high profile conservatives, including Clint Eastwood, signed onto an amicus brief also supporting same-sex marriage.

The court will hear arguments in the Proposition 8 case, called Hollingsworth v. Perry, on March 26. The next day, the court will hear at least an hour's worth of arguments in United States v. Windsor, which deals with the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

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