BY MARK SHERMAN, ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON -- Gay and lesbian couples who are challenging California's ban on same-sex marriage said Thursday that the Constitution prohibits discrimination against them in the nation's largest state or anywhere else in America.
Prohibitions on gay marriage are enshrined in 30 state constitutions and in statutes in roughly 10 other states. "This badge of inferiority, separateness, and inequality must be extinguished," the two couples said in their legal brief filed with the Supreme Court.
But they also laid out several options in the court's consideration of California's Proposition 8 that stop short of declaring full marriage equality across the United States.
Gay marriage opponents are calling on the court to uphold the California provision by arguing that the justices should allow public and political debate over same-sex marriage to continue rather than impose a judicial solution. They also contend that states have a legitimate interest in encouraging heterosexual marriage and "responsible procreation and childrearing."
The justices will hear argument in the California case on March 26 and in a separate challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act's definition of marriage as between a man and a woman a day later.
Theodore Olson, the Republican lawyer who has embraced the issue of marriage equality, said he intends to ask for the broadest possible outcome when he argues to the court in March because gay men and lesbians are "denied the opportunity the rest of us have to get married and live in a family." Olson and Democratic lawyer David Boies have formed an unlikely partnership to represent the challengers to Proposition 8, approved by California voters in 2008 on the same day Barack Obama was elected president. The ballot initiative overturned a state Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage.