California (ABC) - The Department of Justice filed a brief Thursday day in the case of a controversial ballot initiative that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, asking the Supreme Court to affirm a lower court decision that struck down the measure, known as Proposition 8.
The brief marks the first time that the Obama administration has come out in court against Prop 8.
"The exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from marriage does not substantially further any important governmental interest. Proposition 8 thus violates equal protection," wrote Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. in a "friend of the court" brief filed in favor of gay and lesbian couples challenging Prop 8.
Referring to proponents of the voter-approved measure who are defending it in court, Verrilli wrote, "Petitioners contend that Proposition 8 serves an interest in returning the issue of marriage to the democratic process, but use of a voter initiative to promote democratic self-governance cannot save a law like Proposition 8 that would otherwise violate equal protection."
But Thomas Peters, communications director for the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, invoked California's voters in saying it expected the court to uphold the law.
"NOM expects the Supreme Court to exonerate the votes of over 7 million Californians to protect marriage," said Peters, whose group is not the one arguing for Prop 8 in court. "The president is clearly fulfilling a campaign promise to wealthy gay marriage donors. There is no right to redefine marriage in our Constitution."