In President Barack Obama's latest act in support of gay rights, his administration will urge the U.S. Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriages to resume in California, an administration official said on Thursday.
Thursday is the deadline for the administration to file a friend-of-the-court brief in a case that is due to be argued on March 26 on whether California's 2008 law, known as Proposition 8, is constitutional.
The official confirmed an NBC News report of the administration's plans. It was not clear as yet what form the administration's legal argument would take.
The federal government is not a party in the case and it had been unclear whether the administration would file a brief. Gay rights activists were keen to have it intervene. The official's confirmation meant that it would.
The court's nine justices are under no obligation to pay close attention to the administration brief, or any of the dozens of other briefs filed by groups not a party to the litigation, including businesses, religious institutions, and states.
The Obama administration is already taking a stand on gay rights in another case before the court, to be argued a day later on March 27. That case challenges the constitutionality of a central part of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage under federal law as being between a man and a woman.
In February 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder said the administration would no longer defend DOMA in that it violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.
In the DOMA case, the administration has said courts should tread carefully when addressing laws that treat gays and lesbians differently from heterosexuals but has not said whether all bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional.
Nine states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. The nine are Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington.
The gay marriage movement has gained momentum since Proposition 8 was passed in 2008.