President Obama has waded into a legal battle over marriage, calling on the Supreme Court to overturn a decision by seven million Californians to support the traditional definition.
Voters in California backed traditional marriage in a measure known as Proposition 8 in 2008, but opponents claim it is unconstitutional and have legally challenged it.
The case is due to come before the national Supreme Court later this month and President Obama’s administration has filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief in favour of ignoring the public vote.
However pro-marriage group Family Research Council (FRC) said this was “a sharp reversal from the position President Obama articulated just last May” – when he indicated it was for individual states to decide.
FRC President Tony Perkins said: “For the Obama administration to now challenge Proposition 8 – ‘federalizing’ what is a settled matter under California state law – is an act of brazen hypocrisy”.
Alliance Defending Freedom, another pro-marriage group, has also commented on the Supreme Court battle: “Californians and Congress voted for marriage, and the court should respect the freedom to affirm society’s fundamental building block.
“Marriage between a man and a woman is a bedrock social institution that diverse cultures and faiths have honored throughout the history of Western Civilization.
“The freedom of the people to affirm this vital institution should not be taken away.”
The Obama administration’s intervention says that gay couples should be able to marry in states where they are offered legal rights as domestic partners.
Administration sources said that President Obama was directly involved in shaping the court briefing.
In May last year the President said he supported redefining marriage.
But critics accused him of backing the radical change for political purposes.