gay_cityhall_gavel.jpgTwo couples who challenged California’s ban on same-sex marriage asked the U.S. Supreme Court today to declare that gays and lesbians nationwide have a fundamental constitutional right to marry.

Lawyers for the two couples argued in a brief submitted to the high court that “the right to marry is fundamental to all people.”

The attorneys said the couples are not seeking a special right for homosexuals but rather the same right enjoyed by others in the nation.

The couples agree with the sponsors of California’s Proposition 8 that “marriage is a unique, venerable and essential institution,” the brief said.

“They simply want to be part of it,” the lawyers wrote.

The brief was filed in preparation for a Supreme Court hearing on March 26 on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, an initiative enacted by voters in 2008 that banned same-sex marriage in California.

The sponsors of the proposition are appealing a ruling in which 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last year struck down the ban.

The sponsors previously submitted a brief arguing that defining marriage is a states’ rights matter, and that Californians’ choice of a traditional definition in 2008 should be honored.

Although the couples’ response brief emphasizes the argument that gays and lesbians nationwide have a right to marry, the Supreme Court could also consider only more narrow issues when deciding the case.

The federal appeals court ruling took a narrower approach when it said that because same-sex marriage was legal in California for several months in 2008 before Proposition 8 was passed, it was unconstitutional for the initiative to withdraw that right.

The city of San Francisco also filed a brief today arguing that Proposition 8 was discriminatory.

The sponsors of the measure have until March 19 to submit a final reply.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is due by the end of June.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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